Across the Aisle: Bipartisan Perspectives, a virtual discussion between CA Attorney General Rob Bonta and TN Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti

BGR Group, Capitol Advocacy, and Stateside Associates were excited to collaborate and kickoff, “Across the Aisle: Bipartisan Perspectives,” featuring a virtual discussion between Attorney General Rob Bonta (California) and Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (Tennessee). The attorneys general showcased how bipartisan collaboration can tackle critical issues facing our nation, such as consumer protection, online safety, and organized crime.

BGR Group and BHA Strategy Announce Strategic Partnership

Top Firms in Washington, D.C. and Nashville, Tennessee Will Offer Clients Federal and State Lobbying Expertise

Washington, D.C. (February 14, 2024) – BGR Group, Washington, D.C.’s premier bipartisan lobbying and public relations firm, and BHA Strategy, the leading public affairs advisory firm in Nashville, Tennessee, have announced the establishment of a strategic partnership to provide federal, state, and local advocacy services in Tennessee, a top state in the U.S. for advanced industry job growth.

Building off the growth of BGR’s offices in Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia, BHA, led by Blake Harris, Governor Bill Lee’s first Chief of Staff, will support BGR’s clients in Tennessee through legislative and executive branch lobbying while maintaining the firm’s own roster of clients involved commercial real estate development, healthcare, infrastructure, and higher education issues. BHA will work with BGR to offer its lobbying capabilities to the leading growth sectors in Nashville including health, finance, hospitality and entertainment, and advanced manufacturing.

Bob Wood, Chairman and CEO of BGR Group, commented, “The synergies between our two firms on international, federal and state advocacy, public affairs, and economic development will allow us to provide elite client servicing by sharing resources and working together. We are excited about this partnership.”

Formed in 2021, BHA has quickly become one of the leading public affairs firms in Tennessee with a reputation for achieving client results. In addition to Blake Harris, BHA’s unmatched policy and political experience in Tennessee includes Brent Easley, President; Laine Arnold, Co-founder and Senior Vice President; David Topping, Vice President of Research, and Douglas Sellers, Senior Advisor.

BHA CEO Blake Harris commented, “We are thrilled to partner with D.C.’s most effective lobbying firm to continue growing our client services through expanded expertise in governmental affairs, public relations, and due diligence research. Tennessee is experiencing unprecedented economic growth led by low taxes, a robust workforce and a steady political climate. This growth has established a firm foundation for an impactful and flourishing partnership between BHA and BGR in Tennessee and beyond.”

CNBC ranked Tennessee as the third best state for business in 2023 and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is one of the top five cities in the nation for job outpacing competing cities such as New York, L.A., Chicago, Denver, and Charlotte.

Consistently ranked as a Bloomberg Government “Standout” Firm, BGR Group is recognized for its policy expertise in health care, technology, appropriations, defense and financial services. Loren Monroe, a BGR principal and co-head of the firm’s State and Local Advocacy Practice, commented, “Working together, I am excited to connect our federal policy experts with business leaders in Tennessee.  With competitive elections for President and control of Congress in November, there are significant policy implications for 2025.”

 

About BGR Group (www.bgrdc.com)

Founded in 1991, BGR Group is a premier government affairs and public relations firm with offices in Washington, D.C., London, Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia. BGR specializes in three key areas: bipartisan government affairs, strategic communications, and business advisory services. BGR brings together some of the most accomplished policy experts, public opinion influencers, and issue advocates from across the political spectrum.

About BHA Strategy (BHA Strategy):

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, BHA Strategy is a full-service, strategic consulting firm providing expertise in government affairs, public relations, and corporate intelligence. With deep roots in both political campaigns and public service, BHA’s team applies winning campaign strategies and senior advisor expertise to the biggest challenges facing startups, corporations, and causes. BHA retains a political skill set that includes public opinion research, digital marketing, and media production/placement. The firm’s core focus is multi-state government affairs, strategic communication, and reputation management.

BGR Group Expands with New Atlanta Office

Will Serve Clients in Georgia and throughout the Southeast Region

 

Atlanta, GA, (January 25, 2024) – BGR Group, Washington, D.C.’s premier bipartisan lobbying and public relations firm, today announced the opening of an office in Atlanta, Georgia. Building off the firm’s successful expansion in Austin, Texas in 2018, the Atlanta office will provide strategic representation and advocacy for clients in various industries at the local, state and national levels. The new office will physically expand the firm’s presence in the Southeast and enable the delivery of effective and innovative advocacy solutions to clients before state and local officials across the region and country.

BGR will be represented in Georgia by Thomasville, Georgia native William Crozer, a firm Principal and Co-Head of the firm’s bipartisan State and Local Advocacy Practice, and metro-Atlanta native Labriah Lee Holt, a Vice President and the newly named Managing Director of the Atlanta office. With the support of the entire firm’s bipartisan lobbying team, William and Labriah will focus on representing Georgia-based clients in Washington, D.C., as well as growing the firm’s bipartisan work in the City of Atlanta, State of Georgia, and throughout the Southeastern region.

Georgia is consistently ranked as a top state for business, and Atlanta has the nation’s third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies. “BGR ‘s history is rooted in the southeast and Atlanta is the epicenter for business and politics in the booming region. The best policies come from state and local decision-makers, and Georgia has some of the best public servants in the nation today,” former Governor and BGR Founder Haley Barbour said. “Having William and Labriah based in Atlanta will enable the firm to effectively service our clients with deep issue expertise and critical relationships and help drive synergies between the state and Washington.”

Before rejoining BGR in 2021, William served as a Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) beginning in 2018. IGA serves as the primary liaison between the White House and the more than 500,000 state, local, territorial, and tribal leaders from the 50 States, 5 major Territories, and the District of Columbia.  He previously served in the Counsel’s Office for then-Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. Labriah most recently served as State Government Affairs Director for Microsoft, based in Atlanta, where she led engagement across the southeast region with state and local officeholders to advance policy. Before joining Microsoft, Labriah worked with federal, state, and local leaders throughout the country on some of the most pressing foreign policy issues as AIPAC’s National Director of Outreach.  Labriah started her career as an Intellectual Property Attorney at Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta. Labriah currently serves on the Business Council for the African American Mayors Association (AAMA) and is a Board Member of the CareerRise, a workforce intermediary in Atlanta.

William Crozer commented, “With world class infrastructure, a competitive economic development and tax environment, a dedicated workforce, and a leading education system, businesses from around the world are thriving in Georgia’s economy. While remaining focused on BGR’s national and regional engagement, I am excited to provide a more concentrated level of support for clients with the state’s bipartisan Congressional delegation, the Governor, and other state and local officials. Having a full-time presence in Georgia will help BGR position our clients to be part of Georgia’s continued success.”

Labriah Lee Holt offered, “I am honored to open a new BGR office in the city that helped raise me and that has remained at the forefront of economic development and innovation in the Southeast.  Atlanta is not only a great place to do business, but also a vibrant hub of culture, creativity, and diversity. Atlantans know this vital culture influences everything from business, film production, sports teams, cutting edge technology, to the music industry. I have extensive experience working with governors, attorneys general, mayors across the region, and I look forward to helping our clients navigate the opportunities and challenges they face. I joined BGR to help its state and local team continue to expand, and I’m thrilled Atlanta will anchor the firm’s growth in the Southeast.”

BGR’s Atlanta office will be located at One Buckhead Plaza, 3060 Peachtree Road, Suite 1880, Atlanta, GA 30305.

About BGR Group

Founded in 1991, BGR Group is a premier government affairs and public relations firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Austin, Texas, London and now Atlanta, Georgia. BGR specializes in three key areas: bipartisan government affairs, strategic communications, and business advisory services. BGR brings together some of the most accomplished policy experts, public opinion influencers, and issue advocates from across the political spectrum.

BGR Briefing: 2023 State Election Results and 2024 Outlook

BGR Group State and Local Advocacy Practice Co-Head and Principal, Loren Monroe, was joined by Libby Schneider, DNC Chief of Staff, B.J. Martino, President and CEO of the Tarrance Group, Dee Duncan, President of the Republican State Leadership Committee, and A.B. Stoddard, columnist for The Bulwark, to discuss the 2023 election results and what’s to come in 2024.

BGR Group Announces William Crozer as State and Local Advocacy Co-Head

BGR Group is proud to announce the promotion of William Crozer to Co-Head of the bipartisan State and Local Advocacy Practice! William is doing outstanding work with mayors and governors across the country! Congratulations William!

BGR Views: Meet Labriah Lee Holt

BGR Welcomes Labriah Lee Holt to the State and Local Advocacy Practice.

BGR Views: 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington

BGR State and Local Advocacy Vice President Keiffer Mitchell discusses the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington and his family’s special connection to the original event.

 

Closing the Digital Divide: Allocation of Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program Funding to States

On June 28, 2023 BGR held a virtual briefing, “Closing the Digital Divide: Allocation of Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program Funding to States” moderated by Ryan Palmer, Microsoft Airband Global Digital Equity Strategist, and hosted by Loren Monroe, head of BGR’s State and Local Practice.

State and Local Governments Lead on Justice 40

In January 2021, soon after taking office, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008, which created the Justice 40 Initiative, an ambitious program to ensure historically disadvantaged communities around the country that had traditionally been marginalized would benefit from historic federal investments. The enactments of The American Rescue Plan (ARPA), Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have triggered billions of federal dollars into clean energy and efficiency, including for these communities. Section 223 of Executive Order 14008 creates the Justice 40 initiative with the goal of 40 percent of the benefits for clean energy going to disadvantaged communities:

Sec. 223.  Justice40 Initiative.  (a)  Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Climate Advisor, in consultation with the Advisory Council, shall jointly publish recommendations on how certain Federal investments might be made toward a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits flow to disadvantaged communities.  The recommendations shall focus on investments in the areas of clean energy and energy efficiency; clean transit; affordable and sustainable housing; training and workforce development; the remediation and reduction of legacy pollution; and the development of critical clean water infrastructure.  The recommendations shall reflect existing authorities the agencies may possess for achieving the 40-percent goal as well as recommendations on any legislation needed to achieve the 40‑percent goal.

State and local governments are playing critical roles in the implementation of Justice 40. It’s important to note that Justice 40 is not a dedicated fund that just disburses federal dollars. Instead, it’s a clear and achievable vision that all communities deserve clean and sustainable energy regardless of zip code. It’s up to the states to decide how and where federal money is spent within federal guidelines. The need for states to identify and prioritize disadvantaged communities is essential, given the scope of the infrastructure law.

States and local governments have begun identifying disadvantaged communities and implementing accountability measures to ensure communities are well served and money is spent efficiently. State legislatures are codifying Justice 40 and creating work groups and commissions. In addition, the EPA is assisting local governments by establishing technical assistance centers around the country to assist communities with grant applications and awards. Among the highlights of these efforts are:

  • Maryland was one of the first states to codify Justice 40 through its budget process in 2022. At least 40% of the budget dedicated to climate change went to disadvantaged communities. This included environmental cleanup, public transportation, and affordable housing.
  • The Delaware legislature created a Justice 40 oversight committee to track and review progress and make recommendations regarding the spending of ARPA dollars. The committee has held listening sessions with stakeholder engagement and is creating an environmental justice screening tool.
  • Arizona established the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority with the assistance of the EPA to ensure safe drinking water in all communities.
  • The city of Chicago received a $10 Million grant from the EPA to expand its community-focused approach to sustainability.

There are many opportunities for states and local governments to reap the benefits of Justice 40. For example, transportation projects can connect disadvantaged communities to job centers, infrastructure improvements can clean drinking water, and remediating brownfield sites can create jobs and affordable housing opportunities. For Justice 40 to succeed and avoid being another idea put on the shelf, states need to engage with all stakeholders, develop a coherent accountability framework, encourage local participation through local government, and establish robust guardrails to ensure federal investment dollars are not wasted. Justice 40 is not a Democrat or Republican initiative and should not be measured by red and blue states. The objective of Justice 40 is rooted in a principle central to our country’s founding – all communities deserve to be treated equally.

Disagreeing Without Hate

By Loren Monroe

The language surrounding our political discourse is getting increasingly toxic every day. Looking at Twitter or listening to speeches by politicians offers a disturbing window into the angry national mood.

  1. The Democrat party has shown its true Communist colors.
  2. The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and antisemitism.
  3. Democrats Are the Ultimate Grooming Gang.
  4. DeSantis is now officially a synonym for ‘fascist.’
  5. The Biden family is a family that has become wealthy by enabling, helping, aiding, and abetting the Chinese.
  6. What Elon Musk did, removing blue checks, is no different than what the Nazi party did to journalists.
  7. We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states.

There is no chance we would let our children speak to others with such vitriol. Yet it has become commonplace in our political discourse to launch brutal insults. Many people are unwilling to call out inappropriate language because they fear potential retribution.

The essence of our woes, according to Harvard professor and author Arthur Brooks, is a “culture of contempt.” Increasingly, voters are being told that friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who vote for the other party or disagree with specific policies should now be considered detestable, unpatriotic, and downright dangerous.

A 2022 CBS News/YouGov survey found that 51 percent of Democrats feel Republicans are not simply political rivals but genuine enemies who pose a real threat to their way of life. Fifty percent of self-identifying Republicans who are conservatives selected “enemy” to describe Democrats, and 50% went with simply “political opposition.”

The polarization along political and social fault lines presents unpredictable challenges for business leaders. Companies must navigate the gaps in policy directions between red states and blue states, where there is increasingly hardened division among governing officials, customers, and employees. Deciding to take a position, or even to stay neutral, is almost guaranteed to result in a backlash from those who disagree on nearly any issue, whether on abortion, gun control, transgender rights, education, vaccinations, immigration, ESG, or public safety.

When one side declares an issue as an “existential threat,” it often proves impossible to have a thoughtful dialogue about the potential solutions. Increasingly, both sides are taking “the ends justify the means” approach to governing, resulting in debate being shut down in pursuit of outright victory.

Twenty-nine states have legislatures featuring a “supermajority,” and 39 state governments feature a “trifecta” – where one party controls the governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature. One-party control leads to minimal debate on policy differences and expedited passage of legislation.

Leadership is required to build consensus and lower the temperature of our national discourse. Importantly, intergovernmental groups like the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Governors Association (NGA), and the Attorney General Alliance (AGA) are designed to convene bipartisan gatherings where elected officials from different parties can work in cooperation to share ideas, build relationships find policy consensus.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox, the next chair of the National Governors Association, plans to focus his chairman’s initiative on “disagreeing better.” Commenting on the divide between red and blue states, Governor Cox recently tweeted, “We don’t need a divorce, we need marriage counseling. And we need elected leaders that don’t profit by tearing us apart. We can disagree without hate. Healthy conflict was critical to our nation’s founding and survival.”

Governor Cox intends to highlight how leaders get things done while engaging in healthy conflict. His first effort will be around immigration and the bipartisan agreement among governors about the need to grow the workforce. By working together to produce legislative proposals, Governor Cox aims to give bipartisan cover to Congress to finally act. As part of his initiative, Governor Cox will encourage members of different political parties to tape Public Service Announcements and write op-eds about the critical importance of working together to address challenges. The template will be the television advertisement that Governor Cox and his Democratic opponent taped during the 2020 campaign for governor.

Breaking down partisan impulses will require more than elected officials simply changing their tone. Arguably, politicians are responding to demands from voters to clearly state where they stand and how far they will go to defeat the opposition. The longer-term solution relies on building an environment that promotes civil discourse and encourages compromise.

Braver Angels is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to unite red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America, “Our work is about building civic trust in the USA. It is about healing the wounds between the left and right. We welcome opportunities to engage with those with whom we disagree. We look for common ground where it exists, and if possible, find ways to work together.”

A critical piece of the solution will be educating our nation’s future leaders on working toward consensus and not seeing compromise as a failure. As the founding Partner of BGR Group and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour tells students and clients alike: “Purity in politics is the enemy of victory.”  Governor Barbour often quotes his mentor, President Ronald Reagan, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”

Braver Angels, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), and BridgeUSA have developed a program to teach students from colleges and universities to respect ideological diversity, foster civil discourse on college campuses, and cultivate student and faculty leaders. They prepare students to express their views, frame persuasive arguments, listen deeply, and engage respectfully with each other around issues that are typically difficult and divisive.

Another admirable group working to foster civil discourse is the Civility Leadership Institute (CLI) based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Started by General Wesley Clark, CLI convenes diverse groups of leaders nationwide for a year of training, learning, and workshops. Participants tackle complex topics impacting the nation with the goal of achieving common ground and reducing partisan division and gridlock.

America’s most successful political leaders have always shared a key ingredient—an optimistic vision for our country’s future. The well-being of our nation relies on each of us listening to those we disagree with and heeding the advice of President John F. Kennedy, who often reminded Americans that civility is not a sign of weakness: “Let us not emphasize all on which we differ but all we have in common. Let us consider not what we fear separately but what we share together.”