Bottom Line

• STUDENT LOANS. Two companies, GradFin and Student Loan Genius, have founded a coalition aimed at reducing the amount of national student loan debt, which currently stands at about $1.3 trillion. The Student Debt Reduction Coalition’s goals include lobbying for changes to the tax code that allow for employer-sponsored student loan repayment plans — comparable to how a 401(k) functions. The coalition, which officially launched last week, hired McGuireWoods Consulting to advocate on its behalf. The lobbyists on the account include Russ Sullivan, the longtime staff director on the Senate Finance Committee, and Rosemary Becchi, former tax counsel on the Senate’s finance panel. 

• VENEZUELA. Avenue Strategies — a lobbying firm featuring former staffers to President Trump — officially registered to represent Citgo, a Venezuela-owned petroleum refinery with a subsidiary based in Houston. It is a sub-contract through VantageKnight, a firm founded by Democratic operative Manny Ortiz. The contract involves addressing the “potential impact of U.S. energy and foreign policy restrictions on Citgo Petroleum Corporation’s operations and valuation of assets.” The company has been battling U.S. sanctions, both real and threatened, for years because of Venezuela’s human rights abuses. Barry Bennett is the Avenue Strategies lobbyist on the account. He previously served as campaign manager to then-presidential candidate Ben Carson, who now heads the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and eventually began advising Trump. The firm was initially co-founded by Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, but he left the shop last week amid scrutiny that he may not have been properly registering. 

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• FOREIGN AFFAIRS. Edelman, one of the world’s largest public relations firms, was hired on a one-week contract for the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, according to forms filed with the Justice Department. From April 27 to May 4, the firm was paid $10,600 to support the kingdom’s foreign investment license provider “with media and stakeholder engagement to advance various Saudi economic development initiatives,” including writing “editorial content.”