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Leo’s Concord Fund Registers to Lobby

CONCORD FUND REGISTERS TO LOBBY: One of the shadowy nonprofit groups linked to conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo has registered to lobbyHailey Fuchs and I report.

— The Concord Fund hired OnMessage Public Strategies, the public affairs offshoot of the GOP consulting firm of the same name, last month to lobby on “issues related to government oversight and reform,” according to a newly filed disclosure. Tommy Binion, a former Heritage Foundation lobbyist and former aide to ex-Rep. Steve King — the Iowa Republican who was removed from his congressional committees and lost his reelection bid — will work on the account.

— It marks the latest expansion of the political agenda of the web of groups connected to Leo, which have poured millions of dollars into conservative political causes over the years and fueled a generational rightward shift of the federal judiciary.

— The Judicial Crisis Network, an alias of the Concord Fund, has been agitating against Democrats’ efforts to install a code of conduct for the Supreme Court, even as some conservative justices have indicated their support for an ethics code. The Judicial Crisis Network previously lobbied in 2017 in support of Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

— The Concord Fund is helmed by Carrie Severino, a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and an ally of Leo. The nonprofit, which is not required to disclose its donors, is one of several Leo-linked groups to benefit from a $1.6 billion contribution made by a little-known tech mogul in 2021.

— Tax records show the Concord Fund received a $28.9 million donation in the tax year ending April 2022 from the Marble Freedom Trust, the recipient of that $1.6 billion donation, meanwhile the Concord Fund has paid Leo’s for-profit businesses millions of dollars for consulting services.

— The campaign arm of OnMessage Inc. has a rolodex of prominent conservative political clients that includes the NRCC, the House GOP-aligned super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund, and Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). The firm has also recently worked for Fair Courts America, a conservative group backed by Republican megadonor Richard Uihlein that boosted the conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Daniel Kelly.

— But the firm has not been active on the lobbying scene. According to disclosures, OnMessage has just one other federal lobbying client aside from the Concord Fund: the National Association of Broadcasters.

Happy Thursday and welcome to PI. Got a lobbying tip? Let’s hear it: coprysko@politico.com. And be sure to follow me on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter@caitlinoprysko.

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INTUIT SHUFFLES LOBBYING FIREPOWER: Finance software giant Intuit has overhauled its lineup of hired guns in recent months as the company, which makes tax prep service TurboTax, faced heat from Washington regulators and the IRS prepared to roll out its free online tax filing pilot program.

— Intuit or its subsidiaries have parted ways with three outside lobbying firms since August, lobbying disclosures show. The company’s credit monitoring service Credit Karma split with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck on Aug. 15, according to disclosures, the same day the parent company parted ways with Ice Miller Strategies and the Madison Group.

— Since September, Intuit has picked up four new outside firms, retaining the Duberstein GroupMindset and the Complete Agency and re-hiring Mehlman Consulting to lobby on a range of issues including data privacy, AI, “tax simplification,” financial literacy, small businesses and access to capital, fintech regulation and intellectual property.

— Intuit, whose offerings also include personal finance app Mint, the accounting program QuickBooks and email marketing platform Mailchimp, has poured more money than ever into lobbying in recent years as the Biden administration inched closer to enacting a direct tax filing program. The $3.5 million Intuit and Credit Karma spent on lobbying last year was a record for the company, up from $2.5 million just three years earlier.

— Intuit is on track to break its record this year, reporting $1.9 million in lobbying expenditures through the first half of 2023, which in addition to the IRS free filing pilot has seen an FTC judge ding the company for deceptively promoting TurboTax as a free product.

FLYING IN: One half of the legislative branch may currently be rudderless, but nevertheless, fly-ins persist. Physician advocates with the U.S. Oncology Network headed to the Hill today to meet with GOP Reps. Buddy Carter of Georgia and Jodey Arrington and Michael Burgess of Texas to discuss consolidation in health care, site-neutral payment reform and more.

— The Coalition for GSP is on the Hill this week as well with representatives from businesses of all sizes and corners of the country who are slated to have more than 110 meetings with members and staff on both sides of the aisle about renewing the Generalized System of Preferences program, which gave 119 emerging regions duty-free access to American products before its expiration at the end of 2020.

— The coalition was set to meet with House Ways and Means ranking member Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and 10 other fellow Ways and Means members including Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) and Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), and is hopeful that a GSP renewal could be included in an end-of-year spending package.

— Women for Gun Rights flew dozens of its members in from 46 states this week for meetings in offices spanning the ideological spectrum — including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The fly-in is aimed at highlighting the group’s new tagline, “Moms Demand Protection,” which plays off the name of the gun control group Moms Demand Action.

THE MEGADONOR WHO CONTAINS MULTITUDES: “Peter Thiel has worn many hats over the years: Silicon Valley founder, Trump megadonor, cryptocurrency booster, democracy skeptic. But there is yet another facet to Thiel, one that has remained secret until now,” Insider’s Mattathias Schwartz reports: FBI informant.

— “In the summer of 2021, Insider has learned, Thiel began providing information as a ‘confidential human source,’ or CHS, to Johnathan Buma, a Los Angeles-based FBI agent who specializes in investigating political corruption and foreign-influence campaigns.”

— “Charles Johnson, a longtime associate of Thiel’s and a notorious figure in the far-right movement that Thiel has subsidized for a decade, told Insider in a statement that he helped recruit the billionaire as an informant by introducing him to Buma,” and two additional sources corroborated the Palantir founder’s relationship with the FBI.

— “Another source close to Thiel told Insider that while they could not confirm that Thiel was a CHS, Thiel did speak to Buma occasionally. The source said that any assistance Thiel might have provided to the FBI should be understood as part of Thiel’s gradual distancing of himself from Trump and the broader MAGA movement, which has vigorously criticized the FBI and other federal law-enforcement agencies.”

SPOTTED at an open house and office opening for Axiom Strategies and their newly launched PR and government relations affiliate AxAdvocacy, per a tipster: Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.), Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Carol Miller (R-W.Va.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), Bob Good (R-Va.), Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas), Mike Flood (R-Neb.), Mark Alford (R-Mo.), Eric Burlison (R-Mo.), Rich McCormick (R-Ga.) and Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), Axiom’s Jeff Roe and Rob Phillips, AxAdvocacy’s Ashlee StephensonSamantha Dravis, Steve Chartan and Bobby Babcock.

— And at a 50th anniversary party and office opening at the Distilled Spirits Council’s new headquarters and “Cocktail Caucus” bar, per a tipster: Congressional Bourbon Caucus co-chairs Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Morgan McGarvey (D-Ky.), Rum Caucus co-Chair Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.); Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Aaron Bean (R-Fla.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), John Joyce (R-Pa.), Daniel Newhouse(R-Wash.), Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Estes and Miller; Chris SwongerLisa Hawkins and Denzel McGuire of DISCUS; Kristin Bodenstedt of Bacardi North AmericaTara Engel of Pernod Ricard USAJim Perry and Meredith Mellody of Brown-FormanBrett Hale and Terry McNaughton of Beam SuntoryKate Coler of Moët Hennessy and Matt Stanton of Constellation Brands.

— And at the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s annual Touch-n-Go reception, per a tipster: Reps. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Chuy García (D-Ill.), Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Tom Kean (R-N.J.), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Graves, Bean, Joyce, Newhouse and Van Duyne.

— And last but not least, at a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration hosted by the Hispanic Lobbyists Association, per a tipster: Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) and Lou Correa (D-Calif.); Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), Elena Rios and Art Motta of the National Hispanic Medical AssociationCesar Gonzalez and Gisselle Reynolds of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-Fla.), office, Rich Lopez of Forbes Tate and Liz Lopez of Constellation Brands, Lucia Alonzo of Michael Best StrategiesIvelisse Porroa-García of Crossroads StrategiesErica Romero of Latinos for EducationMaria Luisa Boyce of UPSNorberto Salinas of Salinas StrategiesOsiris Morel of Brownstein Hyatt Farber SchreckJavier Gamboa of the Business RoundtableCarlos Becerra of Florida International UniversityRené Muñoz of Correa’s office, John Mark Kolb of Rep. María Salazar’s (R-Fla.) office, Marcus Garza of Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Ga.) office and Erica Johnson Creamer of Walmart.

Source : Politico