One of the largest private equity firms in the world has hired a lobbyist with deep ties to President Donald Trump, with the intention of targeting the Department of Defense and State Department.
Blackstone, a massive investment firm that has more than $500 billion in assets under management, brought on David Urban earlier this year to join its ranks of outside lobbyists, according to a disclosure report. Urban is president of the American Continental Group, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm.
He is also a member of Trump's reelection advisory committee and was a key architect of the president's successful campaign in Pennsylvania during the 2016 run.
Since Urban registered to lobby for Blackstone's administrative services arm in February, the firm has paid at least $120,000 for the Trump ally to engage with the Department of Defense and State Department on what the disclosures call "issues related to military preparedness and training."
Blackstone's CEO is Steve Schwarzman, who recently gave $3 million to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, and has been a close confidant of the president's since his inauguration.
After repeated requests for comment, neither Blackstone nor Urban would say what they're hoping to see from either the Pentagon or the State Department. The company doesn't have any publicly listed government contracts, and its known investments don't appear to have direct links to the defense industry.
Blackstone does have a "veterans network," according to its website. The network launched in 2019.
"It gives transitioning military personnel the support and guidance needed to enter the financial services industry," Blackstone's website said. "Once our veterans are at Blackstone, the network provides an extended community to not only act as a support system, but to better educate our employees."
Blackstone lobbyists contacted the Pentagon and State Department in 2014, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. However, since then there is no sign that Blackstone representatives have engaged with them and there are no lobbying reports showing that the private equity giant has, in fact, ever spoken with officials from those agencies through lobbyists until Urban was hired.
Urban is the latest Trump-linked lobbyist hired by Blackstone. The firm has also tapped Jeff Miller, a lobbyist that's bundled more than $2.7 million for Trump Victory, a joint fundraising operation between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. Miller's firm was paid $90,000 by the same Blackstone office as Urban in the first quarter and an additional $140,000 the following three months.
Miller's team mainly focused on coronavirus relief legislation at the time. Blackstone has previously told CNBC the firm was not lobbying Congress on any of the Covid-19 loan programs and was instead using lobbyists as a way to mainly monitor the coronavirus legislation.
The payments to Miller and Urban are only pieces of Blackstone's larger lobbying expenditures. In the first half of 2020, the firm paid lobbyists $2.7 million, according to data gathered by CRP. That's the most paid in the first half of a year for lobbying by Blackstone since 2012.
Beyond Urban's direct ties to Trump himself, he has extensive experience lobbying both the DOD and State Department.
American Continental Group has made close to $8.4 million from Urban clients including TikTok parent ByteDance, Lockheed Martin, Oracle, Raytheon, Roche and Zoom Video Communications.