Former Pelosi Aides Cash in as Coronavirus Lobbyists

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reps. Sarbanes and Holmes Norton Hold Event Marking Anniversary Of 19th Amendment, Women's Right To Vote
Getty Images
May 27, 2020

Former aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) have raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars this year as registered lobbyists on coronavirus-related issues and legislation, according to federal disclosure records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

At least seven ex-Pelosi aides, including her former chief of staff, senior counsel, and senior policy adviser, have registered as lobbyists on behalf of dozens of companies seeking benefits from coronavirus-related legislation.

The former aides lobbied on policies related to the coronavirus pandemic for over 50 clients in the first quarter of 2020. Their firms received over $2 million from these clients during this time. These fees were for lobbying on multiple issues in addition to coronavirus legislation and policies.

The records illustrate how coronavirus relief legislation sparked a lobbying bonanza in Washington, D.C., this spring, benefiting well-connected former political staffers on both sides of the aisle. At least 25 former Trump officials also registered to lobby on coronavirus legislation, the Washington Post reported last month.

Former Pelosi aides who have registered to lobby on coronavirus issues include special assistant Shanti Stanton, chief of staff Nadeam Elshami, and senior policy adviser Anne MacMillan.

The clients ranged from Delta Airlines to Uber Technologies Inc., with most focusing their lobbying efforts on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the $2 trillion stimulus bill that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in late March.

The legislation, which included $1,200 direct payments to millions of Americans, plus hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and other financial support to industries and businesses, kicked off a lobbying frenzy with companies spending "near-record levels" on influence-buying in Washington, D.C., this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Stanton, the former special assistant to Pelosi who now works at the government relations firm Subject Matter, was tasked by clients Delta Airlines, Facebook Inc., and Verizon Communications Inc. to lobby on "issues related to the coronavirus," including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act.

Delta received $5.4 billion in federal aid from the CARES Act last month. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had written to the Department of the Treasury in defense of the airlines in early April, asking that the department not impose "unreasonable conditions" on the payouts to airline companies. The department had previously emphasized that any financial support to airlines would not be a "bailout" and that the funding would have to be repaid to taxpayers.

Pelosi's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Investigative Research Center reported earlier this month that former Pelosi staffers were profiting from coronavirus-related lobbying as well as pharmaceutical and airline industry lobbying dating back to 2018.

Stanton is registered to lobby on coronavirus-related issues for at least 22 clients, according to disclosure records. Those clients paid her firm over $1 million combined in the first quarter of 2020, according to records.

Elshami, Pelosi's chief of staff until 2017 who now works at Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck LLP, is registered to lobby on coronavirus-related issues for at least 10 clients, including the U.S. Travel Association and Walgreen Co. Those clients have paid his firm a combined $260,000 this year, according to records.

MacMillan, the former senior policy adviser who now works at Invariant LLC, was hired by Bayer Corp. to "educate members [of Congress] on efforts to develop a treatment for COVID-19," by McDonald's Corp. for "efforts to stabilize the restaurant industry workforce through COVID-19," and by Apple Inc. to identify "federal funding for distance learning resources during COVID-19." She has at least 12 clients lobbying on coronavirus policy issues, who paid her firm a total of $620,000 this year, according to federal records.

Arshi Siddiqui, a former senior policy adviser to Pelosi, has registered to lobby on these issues for at least seven clients as a partner at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP, including the Internet & Television Association and Restaurant Brands International Inc. The firm received a total of $330,000 from these clients this year.

Pelosi's former senior counsel Joe Onek, former senior adviser Dean Aguillen, and former staff assistant Christopher Matthiesen also registered to lobby on coronavirus policies for clients including Harris County Sheriff's Office (Texas), the Economic Security Project Action, and Compassion & Choices.

Stanton could not be reached for comment. Elshami, MacMillan, Siddiqui, Onek, Aguillen, and Matthiesen did not respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this month, House Democrats passed another $3 trillion stimulus bill called the HEROES Act despite Trump's promise to veto it. The legislation has yet to be approved by the Senate.

Note: This post was originally published at 2:30 p.m.