Business of Politics

AT&T Calls Hiring Cohen a ‘Big Mistake’

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson “said in a staffwide memo sent on Friday that the company had made a ‘big mistake’ by hiring President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to advise on the telecommunication giant’s deal to buy Time Warner,” the New York Times reports.

Said Stephenson: “Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged. There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports the company’s top lobbyist was forced into retirement.

FBI Looking at Suspicious Manafort Wire Transfers

“The FBI’s investigation of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, includes a keen focus on a series of suspicious wire transfers in which offshore companies linked to Manafort moved more than $3 million all over the globe between 2012 and 2013,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“These transactions — which have not been previously reported — drew the attention of federal law enforcement officials as far back as 2012, when they began to examine wire transfers to determine if Manafort hid money from tax authorities or helped the Ukrainian regime close to Russian President Vladimir Putin launder some of the millions it plundered through corrupt dealings.”

Sean Spicer Is Washington’s First Pariah

Politico: “Washington routinely forgives its philanderers, drug addicts and alcoholics, embezzlers, perjurers, bribers and bribees, liars, burglars and tax evaders, granting them the redemption of another term in office or a job in a lobbying shop or think tank after their scandal passes. It even absolved a drunk who killed a young lady, giving him a prince’s funeral when he died. The writer who said that there are no second acts in American life never lived here.”

“But that iron law hasn’t helped Spicer. Since leaving the White House this summer, he has gained admittance to a circle of one: He has become a Washington pariah. Nobody wants to be anywhere near him, but everyone wants to talk smack about him. He’s not just a punchline. He’s become a national laughing stock ever since his cameo on the Emmy Awards this week, where he attempted a joke about his most famous White House lie.”

Spicer Regrets Berating Reporters Over Crowd Size

Sean Spicer told the New York Times that he “now regrets one of his most infamous moments as press secretary: his decision to charge into the White House briefing room in January and criticize accurate news reports that Barack Obama’s inauguration crowd was bigger than President Donald Trump’s.”

Said Spicer: “Of course I do, absolutely.”

“Since leaving the White House last month, Mr. Spicer has been on a speaking and television circuit — trying to rehabilitate his image.”

Obama Heads to Wall Street

Bloomberg: “Last month, just before her book What Happened was published, Barack Obama spoke in New York to clients of Northern Trust Corp. for about $400,000, a person familiar with his appearance said. Last week, he reminisced about the White House for Carlyle Group LP, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, according to two people who were there. Next week, he’ll give a keynote speech at investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s health-care conference.”

“Obama is coming to Wall Street less than a year after leaving the White House, following a path that’s well trod and well paid. While he can’t run for president, he continues to be an influential voice in a party torn between celebrating and vilifying corporate power. His new work with banks might suggest which side of the debate he’ll be on and disappoint anyone expecting him to avoid a trap that snared Clinton. Or, as some of his executive friends see it, he’s just a private citizen giving a few paid speeches to other successful people while writing his next book.”

Spicer Gets Last Laugh on Trump

Mike Allen: “An agent who met with Sean Spicer told him that the going rate for speeches by most former White House press secretaries ranged from about $20,000 to $30,000. The agent said Spicer, who went elsewhere, thought he could get much more.”

Said the agent: “He thought he was a much bigger deal than the others. His name I.D. is massive — he’s obsessed with that. He kept talking about how everyone stops him for selfies — that’s one of his go-to lines. It’s true, by the way. It happened when I was talking to him.”

Spicer Hits the Speaking Circuit

Sean Spicer is cashing in on “candor” by signing with the Worldwide Speakers Group, Politico reports.

From the pitch: “Audiences around the world will benefit from the same candor, wit and insight that Spicer brought to the White House briefing room.”

“Delivering paid speeches – the lucrative and well-trod pasture of former lawmakers and their name-brand aides – will be one of the main components of Spicer’s post-White House life, according to multiple people briefed on his plans. But he is also planning to pitch a book proposal and his agent, Robert Barnett, as of last week was making the rounds to networks to negotiate a possible deal for his client.”

GOP Has Spent $1.3 Million at Trump Properties

Washington Post: “At least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties and the Republican Governors Association have together spent more than $473,000 at Trump hotels or golf resorts this year… Trump’s companies collected an additional $793,000 from the RNC and the president’s campaign committee, some of which included payments for rent and legal consulting.”

“The nearly $1.3 million spent by Republican political committees at Trump entities in 2017 has helped boost his company at a time when business is falling off at some core properties.”

Manafort Sought $850 Million Deal with Putin Ally

Paul Manafort “partnered on an $850 million New York real estate deal with an ally of Vladimir Putin and a Ukrainian moneyman whom the Justice Department recently described as an organized crime member,” the Daily Beast reports.

“That’s according a 2008 memo written by Rick Gates, Manafort’s business partner and fellow alumnus of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In it, Gates enthused about finalizing with the financing necessary to acquire New York’s louche Drake Hotel.”

Conway Trying to Sell Her Consulting Firm

Kellyanne Conway has taken steps to sell her political consulting firm, Bloomberg reports.

“Conway received the right to defer capital gains taxes for her sale of the Polling Company/Woman Trend… She had valued her 100 percent stake in the firm at between $1 million and $5 million on a personal financial disclosure form that the White House released in March.”

Inside the Elizabeth Warren Merchandising Empire

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “isn’t just a progressive icon, she’s a merchandising industry unto herself,” Politico reports.

“The presidential prospect is at the center of a sprawling business built around her appeal to liberals across the country — a reminder of the unabashed devotion she inspires on the left and the footprint she’ll cast in the 2020 Democratic primary.”

Zuckerberg Hires a Pollster

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have hired Democratic pollster Joel Benenson, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama and the chief strategist to Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, as a consultant,” Politico reports.

“Bringing on Benenson is the latest sign that they’re pushing their philanthropic work more heavily into the political and policy world.”

Obama Will Be Paid $400K for Speech

Former President Barack Obama will be paid $400,000 to speak at Cantor Fitzgerald’s healthcare conference this September, the Washington Examiner reports.

Matthew Yglesias: “That’s so much cash, for so little work, that it would be extraordinarily difficult for anyone to turn it down… Indeed, to not take the money might be a problem for someone in Obama’s position. It would set a precedent… Which is exactly why he should have turned down the gig.”