The influential OMB director’s door is open to corporate and conservative interests, according to logs that the White House fought to keep secret.

The calendars for Mick Mulvaney, the former South Carolina congressman who now runs the White House Office of Management and Budget, offer a glimpse of who has access to the highest levels of the Trump administration.

Among those visiting Mulvaney: Trump friend and casino magnate Steve Wynn; a flurry of officials from the conservative Heritage Foundation; a string of health care and Wall Street CEOs; lobbyists for Koch Industries; a cryptocurrency evangelist; and a prominent member of the Catholic group Opus Dei.

The Trump administration fought in court to block public records requests by Property of the People, a Washington-based nonprofit transparency group, to release the calendars as well as visitor logs from several other White House offices. Lawyers for the group ultimately prevailed and provided the documents to ProPublica, which we are posting in a searchable format.

As OMB director, Mulvaney is the driving force behind the president’s budget and influences regulations and government procurement. It’s been widely reported that he will become the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He also has the ear of the president, who is reportedly a fan of Mulvaney’s performances on the Sunday political shows. The calendars, which cover February to September, typically don’t include details on what was discussed at the meetings. In some cases, the timing of contact with Mulvaney line up with OMB business.

“The OMB director is a member of the cabinet and also a senior adviser to the president — because of that, the director often spends a ton of time in the West Wing,” said Kenneth Baer, who was senior adviser and associate director at the agency for several years of the Obama administration.

The quickest way to get access to Mulvaney appears to be to hire his former congressional chief of staff, Al Simpson, who joined the lobbying firm Mercury in February.

Simpson had seven meetings and a phone call with Mulvaney in a four-month period, between April and August. He appears on Mulvaney’s calendars more frequently than anyone who is not a current government official. Often, Simpson brought lobbying clients with him, including representatives from building materials giant Cemex; pharma firm AmerisourceBergen; and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. Those three firms paid Mercury $360,000 in the first nine months of the year, disclosure filings show.

A Mercury spokesman said: “The firm fully complies with all registration and disclosure requirements when representing clients.” The OMB press office did not respond to requests for comment.

In July, Simpson and Koch Industries lobbyists Brian Henneberry and Raymond Paul met with Mulvaney.

In other cases, billionaires themselves came in to meet with Mulvaney. They include Charles Schwab, medical entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong and Wynn, the casino magnate whose relationship with Trump goes back decades. Wynn met with Mulvaney in April. Wynn’s firm has lobbied on tax issues on Capitol Hill. Wynn himself, who has large holdings in Macau, has reportedlybeen involved in pressing the Trump administration on China issues. Wynn was also named finance chairman of the Republican National Committee in January. Wynn’s spokesman declined to comment.

In late February, Mulvaney had a call with Eugene Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court justice and a prominent lawyer at Gibson Dunn. At the time, Scalia was representing business groups that wanted OMB to delay the implementation of a regulation known as the fiduciary rule. Scalia didn’t respond to a request for comment. Many of his meetings with health care executives came as Republicans in Congress tried to repeal Obamacare.

Mulvaney met with few, if any, consumer groups. That’s in contrast to President Barack Obama’s first OMB director, Peter Orszag, whose visitor logs show meetings with both a long string of corporate executives as well as philanthropic and consumer representatives.

Among the more surprising visitors to Mulvaney was Jeff Bell, a former Reagan aide who is marked on the calendar as being with the Catholic group Opus Dei. Bell told ProPublica that his March meeting with Mulvaney, a Catholic, covered “religious and political matters” but declined to comment further.

Another was Valery Vavilov, CEO of Bitfury, a tech company focused on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. When Mulvaney was still in Congress last year, he co-founded a “blockchain caucus” to promote the technology behind Bitcoin

At the May meeting, “Mulvaney expressed his desire to encourage government use of blockchain and he asked our group for suggestions of simple use cases that could be a first step for government adoption,” a Bitfury spokesman told ProPublica.

Do you have information about Mick Mulvaney or the Office of Management and Budget? Contact Justin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via Signal at 774-826-6240.

Big Sky Connection

 

Click on the image to listen to the audio. 

November 10, 2017

Eric Tegethoff

BILLINGS, Mont. - How does the country move toward renewable energy in a way that benefits working families? That's one issue being addressed at the 46th annual Northern Plains Resource Council meeting on Saturday. 

Keynote speaker Tyson Slocum is the energy program director for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group. He says Public Citizen is interested in promoting energy resources that are affordable, reliable, and sustainable - and that renewable energy is now meeting that criteria.

"We want to make sure that we are encouraging low-cost renewable energy deployment," he says. "And because of technological innovations, that's what's happening right now, in energy markets across the United States."

In Montana, he says prospects look especially good for wind energy. While wind power in the state now provides enough energy for about 200,000 homes, the Department of Energy predicts it could produce enough for 6.4 million homes by 2030.

Slocum says jobs in coal are decreasing because of market forces - in large part, due to the growing renewable-energy sector. But he says there are ways to ensure that coal communities aren't left behind.

"We owe an obligation to those communities that are heavily reliant on extractive industries, to try and focus new investments in those communities for manufacturing of renewable energy resources," he stresses. "That said, there are an awful lot of jobs in the renewable-energy sector."

The Northern Plains meeting is a two-day event starting Friday, held in downtown Billings. Other meeting topics include climate change, accessibility to clean energy and "jobs versus the environment: a false choice." 

Find more on how to attend at www.northernplains.org.

 



 

November 9, 2017

MainstreetMontana.com

 

Influenza season is up us. As of October 28, 2017, the most current statistics from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS), says that reports of influenza has been sporadic. Cases have been reported from fifteen counties in Montana. See chart for reported cases.

 

According to the DPPHS "Influenza is a contagious, upper-respiratory disease caused by different strains of influenza viruses. While many people use the imprecise term "flu" to describe 24 or 48 hour bouts of illness, real influenza can interfere with normal daily activities for as long as a week."

 

Influenza is not a minor inconvenience. As many as 200,000 Americans are hospitalized because of it each year, and as many as 36,000 die of the disease or complications associated with it. Children under age 1, adults 65 or older and people suffering from certain medical conditions are at a higher risk of serious complications. DPPHS

 

Other people at high risk include pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum, residents of nursing homes and other long term facilities.

 

Persons with these medical conditions also at high risk are, people with asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders, kidney disorders, liver disorders metabolic disorders, weakened immune system, people younger than 19 who are on a aspirin regimen, and persons with extreme obesity.

 

For more information go to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm

 

Seasonal Influenza information can be found at dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/influenza

  

You can help prevent the spread of cold and flu by: 1) getting a flu shot, 2) stay home if you are sick, 3) wash your hands, and 4) cover your cough.



 

(Nov 8) – The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), Cross Four Ranch, and Chinese eCommerce retailer JD.com, today, signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to facilitate collaboration on Montana sourced beef to China as well as the potential investment in Montana.

This agreement transpired following Daines’ agricultural roundtable where Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai, Chinese business representatives, and Montana agricultural leaders discussed potential opportunities for expanding Montana beef exports.

“While there are details to be finalized, this MOA represents a great step in the right direction for Montana ranchers and the state of Montana,” said Errol Rice, Executive Vice President of MSGA. “The Montana Stockgrowers Association thanks, Sen. Daines for his work on expanding opportunities and access to overseas markets for Montana ranchers, particularly in lifting the ban on U.S. beef in China earlier this year. ”

The agreement is proposed for an initial three years, with a minimum commitment of $200 million in Montana beef to be imported by JD.com from MSGA members. Beef is the fastest growing sector in China and the world’s fastest growing overseas market for beef.

In addition to the $200 million proposed procurement, JD intends to invest up to another $100 million to build a brand-new processing facility in Montana to support Montana beef production.

Click HERE to read the official signing agreement. For additional information, please contact the MSGA office at 406-442-3420.

 


 

(Gallatin County) On 11-04-17 at about 8:00 PM, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office received a call advising of a vehicle, which had slid off the dirt road and was in a precarious position up Little Bear Road. The caller said he had found the occupied vehicle partly off the road with about a 15-20 foot drop off below them. The occupants did not want to get out of the vehicle in fear of the car going over the edge.

Due to the non-specific directions and the need to get help on scene quickly, the Gallatin County Search and Rescue was activated with a Gallatin County Deputy acting as incident coordinator.

As it turns out the vehicle was located not very far up Little Bear Road.  Search and Rescue personnel were able to secure the vehicle and assist the four occupants to safety.  A tow truck was also requested, and upon arrival pulled the vehicle safely back onto the road.

Sheriff Gootkin would like to remind everyone, when going out into the backcountry, whether in a vehicle or by foot always remember how ice can affect the activity your involved in. Please be extra cautious in these icy times of the year.