Michael Cohen wasn't the only one with ties to President Donald Trump trying to rope in billion-dollar companies. Former campaign advisors at Avenue Strategies were doing the same — with broader reach and apparently much more success.
The firm, which was founded by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and senior campaign advisor Barry Bennett, put together a list of mainly foreign clients starting shortly after the 2016 presidential election. Lewandowski left the firm almost a year ago, months after its founding, but Bennett remains a partner.
The Avenue Strategies client list has included Venezuelan petroleum giant Citgo and tobacco company Altria, which is based in Virginia, according to sources and lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by CNBC.
Altria did not use the firm for lobbying, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be named. Rather, the tobacco titan turned to Avenue Strategies for help with navigating the voter registration database. This was part of a strategy to figure out how to craft compelling messages through TV and web ads in an effort to fight attempts to further regulate the tobacco industry, according to the sources.
Avenue Strategies officials at the time were paid as much as $10,000, depending on the project for Altria, sources said.
The Daily Beast first reported that Altria had a consulting deal with Avenue Strategies, but details of the arrangement are being reported here for the first time.
As one of the largest producers of tobacco, cigarettes and related products, the company spends more on lobbyists than its competitors. The company shelled out more than $10 million in 2017 in an effort to push forward their agenda on a variety of issues, from tax reform to border security, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.