One of the two lobbying firms currently used by the Premium Cigar Association (PCA), formerly IPCPR, is under attack by President Donald Trump for lying about the ties it has to him and his family.
Last week, The Washington Post published a lengthy exposé on Michael Esposito, founder of Federal Advocates, a lobbying firm in Washington D.C. that has gained high profile clients while touting close ties to Trump, his family, the administration and Republican leadership; some of which doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Earlier today, Trump himself took to Twitter and proclaimed he didn’t know who Esposito is:
Many people say they know me, claiming to be “best friends” and really close etc., when I don’t know these people at all. This happens, I suppose, to all who become President. With that being stated, I don’t know, to the best of my knowledge, a man named Michael Esposito…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2019
In addition, The Washington Post story also lists denials from Eric Trump, a spokesperson for Jared Kushner, the White House press secretary and the Republican National Committee chief of staff, all of whom either denied knowing Esposito or indicated he overstated his connections.
Federal Advocates has two connections to the cigar industry, more specifically, to the Premium Cigar Association, the premium cigar industry’s most prominent trade organization.
Since 2010, K&L Gates has been the primary recipient of lobbying dollars spent by the organization, some years the only recipient. All told, the organization disclosed spending $1.36 million with K&L Gates between 2010-2018 with the smallest amount being $80,000 spent last year.
This year, PCA has split the bulk of its lobbying dollars between Federal Advocates and Cozen O’Connor. K&L Gates and Cozen O’Connor are both AmLaw Top 10c0 law firms, whereas Federal Advocates generated less than $5 million in revenue last year.
K&L Gates is also used by the Cigar Rights of America, but multiple sources told halfwheel that PCA made a decision to sever ties and move its business to firms with better ties to the Trump administration.
The PCA’s 2019 spending with Federal Advocates is $90,000; the same disclosed amount it has spent with Cozen O’Connor.
Scott Pearce, executive director of PCA, told halfwheel that the organization would have a statement about Federal Advocates tomorrow.
There’s also another connection between the PCA and Federal Advocates in the form of Kevin “Kip” Talley, a vice-president at Federal Advocates. Talley worked as the senior director of federal legislative affairs for IPCPR until August 2016. The PCA’s business with Federal Advocates began in Q1, prior to Talley joining Federal Advocates.