UPDATE: Corporate lobbyist seeks revenge
The murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020 prompted nationwide protests and a renewed focus on racial justice. Many corporations expressed support for this effort. For example, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said that the company will "fight for greater racial equity inside and outside Walmart."
In June, Popular Information reported that many of the corporations speaking out for racial equality were paying right-wing lobbyist Matt Schlapp hundreds of thousands of dollars to represent them on Capitol Hill. Schlapp, however, was openly antagonistic to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying it was "hostile to families, capitalism, cops, unborn life and gender." Schlapp attributed corporate support for the movement to "leftists" that have "infected" corporate boards with destructive ideas. Schlapp sharply criticized Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) for participating in a Black Lives Matter protest, saying Romney "marched for abortion on demand, the end of the family, no more cops, and the ending of corporate profits."
Now, Schlapp is seeking revenge against the corporations that stopped writing him checks.
In addition to being a corporate lobbyist, Schlapp is the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which is best known for hosting the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). In that capacity, Schlapp wrote a letter to Republicans seeking leadership positions in the next Congress. In the letter, Schlapp says the way to earn the "support" of CPAC is "to reprimand corporations that have gone woke."
Specifically, Schlapp has asked current and prospective Republican leaders to "[p]ledge that you will not meet with these CEOs or their leadership teams, especially their Government Affairs staff, who have been hostile to policies that help all Americans until they change their ways."
Which corporations have gone "woke"? Schlapp says the group includes any corporation that supported the "BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement." He links to an article specifically blasting Walmart for its allegedly "woke" policies. And Schlapp says companies that pledged to cut off donations to Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election qualify as "woke" — those companies include his former clients Verizon, Abbott Labs, and Comcast.
In other words, now that these companies are not paying Schlapp, he wants Republican leaders to refuse to meet with them.
Schlapp's letter appears to be an effort to leverage a potential Republican majority in the House and Senate to revive his struggling lobbying firm. According to the Senate Lobbying Database, Cove Strategies has not signed any new lobbying clients since Trump left office. As recently as 2020, Schlapp was collecting millions per year in lobbying fees from a constellation of major corporations. Today, the Senate Lobbying Database indicates he only has one active lobbying client, Oracle.
Schlapp says that Republican leaders could resume meetings with corporations once they renounce "woke politics." If Republican leaders agree to his demands, Schlapp would be uniquely positioned to help corporations regain access. What better way to demonstrate that you have repudiated "woke politics" than hiring Cove Strategies to represent you?
UPDATE: State legislator sues DeSantis
The legal problems for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) continue to mount. DeSantis' scheme to send dozens of Venezuelan asylum-seekers from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts had already resulted in a criminal investigation by a Texas sheriff and a civil class action lawsuit by the migrants. Both of those legal actions are based on evidence that DeSantis and his agents lured the migrants onto charter flights under false pretenses. The evidence includes a brochure, first reported by Popular Information, that promised the migrants a long list of benefits that they were not eligible to receive.
Now a member of the Florida legislature, Senator Jason Pizzo (D), has sued DeSantis and other members of his administration in state court. Pizzo's lawsuit highlights another major legal problem with DeSantis' flights.
DeSantis says he is paying for the flights under a section of the 2022 budget which allocates $12 million for “a program to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law.”
Under the legislation, an "unauthorized alien" is defined as "a “person who is unlawfully present in the United States according to the terms of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act." The first issue is that the migrants targeted by DeSantis were legally present in the United States while they await a final ruling on their claim for asylum. The second issue is that the migrants were not being transported "from this state [Florida]." DeSantis' agents recruited the migrants in San Antonio, Texas, and the flight stopped briefly in Florida before continuing to Massachusetts. According to the lawsuit, the migrants never disembarked the plane. And the purpose of the flights was not to transport the migrants from Florida.
Pizzo's lawsuit argues that DeSantis improperly spent these funds to transport authorized aliens from Texas.
The suit raises other issues with how DeSantis is contracting with private parties to execute the flights. The law requires the DeSantis administration to receive "at least two quotes" before entering into a contract. The DeSantis administration has already paid Vertol Systems more than $1.5 million in connection with the flights. But DeSantis has refused to release the contract with Vertol Systems or any evidence that he solicited quotes from other companies.
Vertol Systems and its executives have contributed thousands to Republicans in Florida. The company has extensive connections to Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a top political ally of DeSantis.
The lawsuit does not seek any monetary damages. It asks the court to issue a declaratory judgment preventing DeSantis from continuing to use the money to transport migrants located in other states.