Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, Facing Progressive Challenge, Turns to GOP Lobbying Firm for Cash

Rep. Joe Crowley is spending the week before his Democratic primary fundraising with Republican lobbyists.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., departs the House of Representatives for the weekend following final votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, June 15, 2018. On Wednesday, Crowley slumped to the ground briefly on a hot day in D.C. during while marching with demonstrators protesting the separation of children from their parents at the Southern border. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., departs the House of Representatives for the weekend following final votes on June 15, 2018. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., is raising last-minute campaign cash from a corporate lobbying firm famous for its ties to the Republican Party.

Faced with a surprisingly strong challenge from progressive first-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s Democratic primary, Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, is slated to appear at the the offices of BGR Group on 13th Street in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon for a fundraising reception, according to a copy of an invitation obtained by The Intercept.

The fundraiser is at an odd venue for a Democrat who claims to be an avowed opponent of the GOP.

The invitation lists Crowley’s position in leadership of the Democratic Party and as a member of the powerful Ways & Means Committee, which oversees tax policy. The fundraiser, which asks for $500 minimum to attend as an individual and $1,000 to attend for political action committees, is at an odd venue for a Democrat who claims to be an avowed opponent of the GOP.

BGR is named for its founding partners, all of whom are Republican: Haley Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chair; Ed Rogers, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan; and Lanny Griffith, a former education official in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

The firm boasts a high-profile list of clients, many of whom face contentious issues on Capitol Hill.

BGR Group represents defense giants Raytheon, Huntington Ingalls, and United Technologies on procurement. Pharmaceutical firms, including Eli Lilly and Company, retain BGR Group explicitly to stave off the threat of lowering drug prices, according to lobbying disclosures. Cardinal Health — which is facing lawsuits across the country for its role in fueling the opioid epidemic by supplying known “pill-mill” pharmacies — hired BGR Group on pending legislation dealing with “pharmaceutical product distribution.” Other firms facing increasing scrutiny, including Amazon, Verizon, and Chevron, are also BGR Group clients.

BGR also boasts a roster of foreign-based clients. The company represents several foreign governments, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is known for hiring Washington influence-peddling firms as it seeks support for a brutal war it is waging in Yemen. BGR also represents two companies controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman: Alfa Bank and LetterOne Holdings. The FBI is reportedly scrutinizing suspicious communications between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank’s computer servers during the presidential campaign.

Though the firm was founded as a uniquely partisan outfit, the company has hired Democrats in recent years to expand its bipartisan outreach on behalf of clients. Jonathan Mantz, one of the hosts of the Crowley event, is a BGR Group lobbyist involved in Democratic politics.

But the firm continues to be an outspoken voice within the GOP. Rogers, BGR Group’s chair, pens a regular column for the Washington Post. In a column last month, he scorned Democrats for capitulating “to the shallow-minded embrace of socialism” embodied by progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

BGR Group, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on why they were hosting Crowley on Wednesday. Crowley’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration and BGR enjoy friendly relations.

The Trump administration and BGR enjoy friendly relations. The firm’s lobbyists were invited to some of the first transition meetings after the election. While much of K Street bet on Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, BGR Group was one of the few lobbying outfits to donate directly to Donald Trump’s campaign.

The invitation to the Wednesday fundraiser also lists Maggie Gage, a lobbyist with the financial conglomerate Credit Suisse, as a host. The Swiss investment bank was involved in an effort to convince Crowley to help pressure regulators against the Volcker Rule, a signature provision of the Dodd-Frank law that regulated financial firms.

As The Intercept reported, Crowley’s rise within Democratic Party ranks is tied to his ability to raise large sums of money from corporate lobbyists and political action committees. He won endorsements from both local and national Democrats with a history of receiving checks from Crowley-controlled PACs.

The money-driven political approach was evident on Monday evening, when Crowley declined to appear with his opponent at a debate in the Bronx, part of the congressional district he is fighting to represent in Washington. Instead, Crowley sent a surrogate, former New York City Council Member Annabel Palma, to debate Ocasio-Cortez. For her part, Palma is also a recipient of Crowley’s campaign finance machine, having received $2,000 from Crowley’s PAC for her previous bids for local office.

Top photo: Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., departs the House of Representatives for the weekend following final votes on June 15, 2018.

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