A Washington Lobbyist Whose Brother Serves As A Top Adviser To President Joe Biden Had His Best Quarter In Over A Decade As Biden Prepared To Take Over The White House.
Photo: President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington.
Photo Credit: Evan Vucci / AP
Published January 26, 2021
The Center for Responsive Politics [By Karls Evers-Hillstrom]-
Jeff Ricchetti, brother of White House counselor and longtime Biden ally Steve Ricchetti, brought in $610,000 in lobbying revenue from October through December, according to newly released lobbying filings.
His firm had its best quarter since 2009, attracting numerous pharmaceutical companies and picking up new clients after Biden secured the presidency.
The influx of clients shows how monied interests often hire lobbyists with deep ties to the most powerful government officials. The revolving door will continue to spin as corporate giants seek access to Biden and his closest aides.
Amazon hired Ricchetti on Nov. 13, less than one week after Biden was declared the winner.
The powerful firm paid him $60,000 to lobby Congress on a bipartisan bill requiring online retailers to vet third-party sellers and issues related to COVID-19. Amazon and other tech giants spent record sums on lobbying in the fourth quarter of 2020 as they faced antitrust lawsuits and scrutiny from Congress.
Ricchetti picked up a client that had never hired a lobbyist before, Evofem Bioscience, on Nov. 15. The contraceptive manufacturer paid Ricchetti $30,000 to lobby Congress on federal policy “pertaining to coverage for contraceptive services.”
Other clients hired Ricchetti shortly before Biden won the presidential contest.
Pharmaceutical companies Eagle Pharmaceuticals and Neurocrine Biosciences each hired Ricchetti on Oct. 1. The firms paid $80,000 and $50,000 respectively to lobby Congress on issues related to the pharmaceutical industry.
Vaxart, a biotech company pushing a COVID-19 vaccine that can be taken in tablet form, hired Ricchetti on Nov. 1, two days before the election, and paid $50,000 to lobby Congress on vaccine funding.
Two major pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline and Horizon Therapeutics, hired Ricchetti in the third quarter of 2020 and increased their lobbying spending in the fourth quarter.
GlaxoSmithKline paid Ricchetti $80,000 to lobby Congress on drug pricing issues and government approval of its COVID-19 antibody treatment. Horizon Therapeutics paid $130,000 to inquire about a proposed Medicaid rule opposed by the pharmaceutical industry. Both firms added Ricchetti to an already significant stable of lobbyists.
Biden has said he wants to reduce drug prices, which continue to rise each year. That puts pressure on Steve Ricchetti to recuse himself from Biden’s drug pricing initiative due to his brother’s lobbying contracts with pharmaceutical companies. Citing unnamed sources, CNBC reported Ricchetti has rejected requests to lobby his brother.
Jeff Ricchetti is the only registered lobbyist at his firm, Ricchetti Inc., which was formed in 2001. His firm raked in $610,000 in the fourth quarter of 2020, up from $270,000 in the previous quarter and nearly matching the firm’s entire 2019 haul.
Ricchetti had his best quarter since 2009, President Barack Obama’s first year in the White House alongside Biden. At that time, both Jeff and Steve Ricchetti worked at the firm and attracted major pharmaceutical clients such as Eli Lilly, Sanofil and Novartis.
Steve Ricchetti de-registered as a lobbyist in 2009 but remained at the firm until 2012 when he joined the Obama administration as Biden’s top adviser. By terminating his lobbying registration, Ricchetti was able to avoid Obama’s ethics rules preventing lobbyists from joining the administration.
Biden has implemented tougher ethics rules that aim to curtail the revolving door between K Street and his administration. But like every recent president before him, Biden’s administration includes former lobbyists, and some of his top cabinet members were paid lucrative sums to do consulting work for corporate giants without registering as lobbyists.
Ricchetti is not the only lobbyist with Biden connections bringing in new clients.
Sudafi Henry, former director of legislative affairs for then-Vice President Biden, signed lobbying contracts with Lyft, Abott Laboratories and the American Health Care Association after Biden won the presidency, bringing in $110,000 for his firm in the final months of 2020.