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We are in the dog days of this Congressional session. The lame duck session which began this week is important, but just as important is the pandemic and the real prospect of safe and effective vaccines, the battle for control of the Senate and the runoff elections next month in Georgia, and an ultimate decision on last month’s presidential election. Former Congressman Erik Paulsen and I cover these subjects and more in Heard on the Hill. Steve Ruhlen, our Appropriations expert, summarizes the ongoing struggle to fund the federal government. Al Jackson, our expert on defense, brings us up to date on all matters in the defense sector. Ramona Lessen provides a summary of yesterday’s important Senate Banking Committee hearing featuring testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
Erik Paulsen also addresses the need for Congress to enforce trade laws, and I took a look at November’s biggest and most surprising Senate victory.
Our Total Spectrum Spotlight interview is with Todd Smith, Chairman of Total Spectrum’s Georgia Group. Todd knows Georgia down to the soles of his shoes, and our short interview with him about the Georgia Senate runoff elections is both enjoyable and informative.
We will be back on December 16th for our 2020 wrap-up and holiday issue of This Week.
Steve Gordon, Managing Partner
Heard on the Hill
Senators returned to town Monday, and House Members came back Tuesday. The last hurrah of the 116th Congress begins. I see three backdrops for the lame duck session: the recounting of votes and certifying of the presidential election, the testing of the Republican Senate firewall in Georgia, and the decision by the Food and Drug Administration to award emergency use permits for the first two vaccines.
There is much more to discuss about the three backdrop stories than there is about the lame duck, so we will start there.
Most supporters of the President know that his legal challenges to the November election are on their last legs. Wisconsin and Arizona confirmed their presidential election results this week, becoming the last two states to certify among the six states in which President Trump has contested his defeat. Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania have also certified their results. Georgia certified Vice President Biden’s victory on November 20th, but they are currently recounting at the request of the Trump campaign. Few people expect that the recount will significantly alter the result.
The Biden transition team is beginning to roll out their first selections for a new administration. Janet Yellen, former Chair of the Federal Reserve, received generally positive reviews when she was nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury. Cecilia Rouse, an economist who is currently the Dean of Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs, was recently nominated to chair the Council of Economic Advisors.
I have heard discussion and rumors about individuals under consideration for other cabinet positions in a Biden Administration, but they are at this juncture rumor and conjecture. Two things are clear: there will be more women and minorities in the Biden cabinet than in any administration I can remember, and the Biden Administration will attempt to select immediately for second and third tier agency positions. These positions do not require Senate approval, just a security clearance.
Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) is the Chairman of Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction and responsibility for the inaugural ceremony. He and his committee are planning for a ceremony that will be smaller, socially distanced, and will be held outside as much as possible. The ceremony generally draws about 220,000 people, but they are planning from 120,000 to 160,000 people to attend the ceremony on January 20th.
The Senate: The battle for control in 2021
Senator-elect Mark Kelly was sworn in Wednesday as Arizona’s newest U.S. Senator. His election brings the Republican majority down to two seats, which coincidentally is the exact number of seats up for grabs in Georgia’s two runoff elections to be held January 5th.
The Georgia elections are the ultimate decider of which party will control the Senate in the next Congress. This week’s Total Spectrum Spotlight interview is appropriately with Todd Smith, Chairman of Total Spectrum’s Georgia Group. Todd has spent his political career at the highest levels of Georgia politics. You will enjoy our Spotlight interview with Todd Smith, guaranteed.
Georgia law requires that a winner of an election receive at least 50.1% of the vote.
The first runoff on January 5th is between Republican Senator David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. Senator Perdue received 49.7% of the vote in November.
The other election on January 5th is between Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Governor Kemp to fill the seat of former Senator Johnny Isakson, and the Reverend Raphael Warnock. There were at least 20 candidates in the November “jungle” primary election, and when none broke that 50% threshold, the top two candidates – regardless of party affiliation – automatically advanced to the January 5th runoff.
If Senators Perdue and Loeffler win – or if one of the Republican Senators win – Senator McConnell will continue to be the Majority Leader. If Jon Ossoff and Reverend Warnock both win it will be a 50-50 Senate and the Vice President will break the tie. Senator Harris in all likelihood will be the next Vice President, so she would break ties in favor of Senator Schumer and the Democrats.
Almost $500 million will be raised and spent by the campaigns and outside groups trying to influence Georgia voters, some of whom are bone tired of being in the eye of America’s political storm. Both runoffs are predicted to be ‘base’ elections, meaning the candidates that get out more voters from their base will prevail. Senator Perdue is favored in his runoff because he only needs to pick up a relative few number of votes to win. The other runoff is way too close and complicated to call.
Both Senate races will be close and will go down to the wire, and the outcome will have national implications.
More than 235,000 soldiers in the U.S. Army died in battle in World War II. As of today, over 276,000 Americans have lost their lives to the virus. The pandemic has been a nightmare for some and an economic disaster for others. It has changed our lives, changed our economy, and changed our perceptions. As we like to say, everything changes everything.
The ultimate way out of the pandemic is the production of safe and effective vaccines, and the cavalry is clearly coming. The Trump Administration pinned their hopes on Operation Warp Speed – a program conceived by Senator Roy Blunt, Chairman of the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.
Operation Warp Speed paid for the manufacture of the vaccines to start BEFORE they were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. That’s how Pfizer and Moderna and the Administration can have the vaccine ready to ship the day after they receive government approval. A snapshot of the schedule:
Monday, the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met. They recommended that healthcare workers would be prioritized to receive the vaccine first, followed by residents of long-term care facilities. The next step will be to decide which groups should have the next priority; it will be between adults over 65, adults with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers. The CDC Director will make the ultimate recommendation, but priority will be carried out locally by Governors and the heads of jurisdictions.
On December 10th, the Food and Drug Administration’s Advisory Board will meet to review the clinical trial data and make a recommendation on issuing an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Pfizer. On December 17th, the FDA’s Advisory Board will similarly meet to make a recommendation on issuance of an EUA to Moderna.
Senator Blunt recently said that Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca/Oxford University, and maybe one additional company will ultimately produce an effective vaccine. “Pfizer and Moderna will have 40 million vials of vaccine ready to ship as soon as they get authorization. But since immunization will be a two-step process – a vaccine and a booster vaccine administered 30 days later – there is enough vaccine to take care of 20 million Americans. Production will ramp-up and significantly more vaccine will become available throughout the first quarter of 2021. All Americans who want a vaccine will be able to get one by Memorial Day or July 4th at the latest.”
Members of the press met Wednesday with Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services; U.S. Army four-star General Gustave Perna, Chief Operating Officer of Operation Warp Speed; and Dr. Moncef Slaoui, former head of Glaxo’s vaccines department and scientific lead of Operation Warp Speed. They confirmed that there will be 40 million vials available this month. They also said 60 million vials of vaccine will be available in January (enough for 30 million Americans to get vaccinated) and 100 million vials available in February (enough for 50 million Americans). They also said that Johnson & Johnson might have their vaccine available in February, which would dramatically change the supply and the number of Americans who could be vaccinated because this vaccine only calls for a single shot to provide coverage.
The Lame Duck
Pandemic Economic Relief. Outlook: A Weak Maybe. Speaker Pelosi refused to negotiate in October on the terms and amount of her relief program, betting that the election would bring a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate.
The Problem Solvers Group came out this week with a plan, which has provisions for state and local government assistance, more Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, unemployment assistance, as well as funds for more testing. The cost of their program is over $1.5 trillion – a non-starter for Senate Republicans – but it did get some discussion started.
A bipartisan group of Senators released a relief framework that would cost $908 billion. Then Leader McConnell and the Senate Republican caucus put out a new and very targeted relief program, but Senate Democrats didn’t – and won’t – go near it.
House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced late Wednesday afternoon that they will support the $908 billion stimulus plan created by a bipartisan group of Senators.
There has certainly been some motion on additional pandemic-related relief. But I am not at all sure it is at the momentum level – at least not yet. It is possible that momentum builds for a targeted relief package. It is possible that Congress could take a couple of key provisions of the CARES Act that need additional funding and put them in the Appropriations bill. Two relief provisions that could be put into legislation during the lame duck are additional funds for unemployment and the PPP. Unemployment benefits under the CARES Act run out in December. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups sent a letter to Congress pushing for more PPP funds for small- and medium-sized businesses.
It could also be that additional pandemic-relief is kicked into January when we’ll know which party controls the Senate.
Appropriations for the balance of the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year. Outlook: Something will be done to prevent a government shutdown. Money to keep the federal government open runs out on December 11th. House and Senate Appropriators agreed last week on the total funds to be spent in each of the twelve appropriations measures and agreed to roll the bills into one omnibus. But the devil is in the details. I think the omnibus will ultimately pass, but I would not be surprised if they need a short-term continuing resolution to keep current funding levels for a few weeks, or a longer one resolution that would run from December 11th into early next year.
Defense Authorization. Outlook: Probable. This bill has passed every year since the 1960’s, but the White House has concerns about some minor aspects of the bill and is threatening to veto the bill. Congress and the White House will find It may well be that the concerns will get resolved as we get closer to Christmas.
Key Dates to Watch
House Majority Leader wants the Lame Duck to End – December 11
Early voting starts in Georgia – December 14
Electoral College Meets – December 14
Scheduling Senate adjournment – December 18
Total Spectrum Spotlight: Episode 3 on Georgia Runoffs
The Georgia Special Election for two United States Senate seats is scheduled for January 5th. Total Spectrum Partner and Georgia Group Chairman Todd Smith explains why the Georgia Senate Special Election was required and how the race is shaping up.
By Stephen Ruhlen, Total Spectrum Partner
Fresh off the elections, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are on a two-week sprint to hammer out the final spending bills for Fiscal Year 2021. The House is scheduled to adjourn on December 10th and the current government funding bill expires on the 11th. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have yet to agree on the overall funding level for the government. However, the House went ahead and passed its versions of the twelve appropriations bills – heavily reflecting Democratic spending priorities – earlier this year, while the Senate did not pass any. With next year ushering in a new Biden administration and a surprisingly slim Democratic majority in the House – and control of the Senate still in limbo – neither Democrats nor Republicans really gained any leverage on the spending debate. So, with the elections over and the stopgap funding set to expire, clarity and necessity are pushing this final drive.
Last week, House and Senate appropriators agreed to the overall topline funding amounts. The Appropriations Subcommittee staffs immediately began conferencing over the Thanksgiving break to get agreement on the twelve bills that will make up a massive final omnibus spending bill.
The appropriations negotiations could also be affected by whatever may or may not happen with a potential further coronavirus relief package. Speaker Pelosi has demanded emergency funding of more than $2 trillion, while Majority Leader McConnell has pitched a relief bill in the neighborhood of $500 billion. This week, a bipartisan group of Senators offered a $900 billion compromise, but it is still unclear whether this agreement will be enough to move the bulk of members of either party off their entrenched positions.
Democrats would also like to add coronavirus funding to several of the FY2021 appropriations bills, however Republicans have signaled that they will not accept that funding within the regular appropriations bills or the omnibus that they will make up. They argue coronavirus spending should come under a specific relief bill. Given these disparate and firm views on pandemic funding, getting any relief bill through Congress in the next week and a half will be a tough slog.
November’s Biggest and Most Surprising Victory
By Steve Gordon, Total Spectrum Managing Partner
At one time, Republican Senators represented many of the northeastern states. Today there are only two – Pennsylvania’s Senator Pat Toomey and Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
Senator Collins knew she would be targeted for defeat in 2020 because of her outspoken support for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, and she certainly was correct. Maine is not a populous state, having only two congressional districts. But campaign dollars poured in as this race became critical to the battle for control of the Senate. More than $360 million was spent in Maine on this race, or about $175 for every registered voter.
Public polls in 2020 never showed Senator Collins ahead. But she ultimately won by more than eight points – even while Vice President Biden was defeating President Trump in Maine.
Senator Collins will chair the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2021 if Republicans keep control of the Senate.
By Al Jackson, Strategic Consultant to Total Spectrum
The United States Senate earlier this month introduced a government-wide $1.4 trillion spending package which includes $696 billion for defense. The government is currently operating on a continuing resolution that is set to expire on December 11. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress must either reconcile the House and Senate versions of spending bills into one measure and have the President sign it into law, or pass another continuing resolution. A separate COVID-19 relief package and the annual defense policy legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), remain on the Congress’ list of things to do.
The House passed its $694.6 billion Pentagon spending bill for Fiscal Year 2021 in July as part of a $1.3 trillion funding package. It included provisions to provide $1 million for the Army to rename ten bases that honor Confederate leaders and to bar the Trump Administration from using more Pentagon funds on border wall construction. Hence, it includes language reducing transfer authority from the requested $9.5 billion to $1.9 billion, and places additional oversight mechanisms on the Defense Department’s ability to reprogram funds.
As it relates to the Senate-passed defense appropriations bill, procurement would increase by $2.4 billion, which is well above the President’s initial budget request. To offset that increase, defense-wide, Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) was cut by $2.1 billion. The net effect is more money for buying today’s weapon systems and less funding for the development of future programs. The Senate bill added $1.7 billion to Navy and Marine Corps aircraft procurement, $452 million to aircraft for the Air Force and $159 million to Army aviation. Of that funding, $1.7 billion will end up with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
This $1.7 billion plus-up results in 17 additional F-35 aircraft, 12 F-35As and five F-35C aircraft carrier variants, which would bring the total FY 2021 buy to 96 aircraft. The Appropriations Committee’s justification for such a large increase is the Air Force’s unfunded priority list for the increase of 12 new F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants. The House version of Defense funding added a less substantial $1.4 billion, which translates into 12 F-35 aircraft. When the two versions are reconciled, expect a significant increase in F-35 aircraft.
Of particular note to companies such as Arizona-based Raytheon and Northrop Grumman Corporation, the Senate defense funding bill includes $10.2 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $1.1 billion above the president’s budget request, which includes an additional $319.6 million for an eighth THAAD battery; $250 million for Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Reliability/SLEP; and $200 million for risk reduction on Ground-Based Midcourse Defense. Additionally, the legislation fully funds the Next Generation Interceptor, a SM-3 Block IB multi-year procurement contract; and the Long-Range Discrimination Radar.
As it pertains to missile warning, the Senate, similar to the House, raises concern about the Pentagon’s plans for the Space Development Agency (SDA) to develop missile tracking satellites instead of the congressionally-supported Missile Defense Agency, which has a strong presence in Arizona. Added to the legislation is language that directs DoD to include in their FY2022 request a comprehensive acquisition strategy for the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) and to fully fund the effort. The Senate version adds $140 million to the MDA’s budget for HBTSS and approved SDA’s request for a transfer of $20 million to its budget for the effort associated with missile defense.
In other provisions, the legislation fully funds the B-21 bomber program, however, many of the Air Force’s other major development programs (RDT&E) received slight cuts. Funding for one of its biggest priorities, the Advanced Battle Management System, shrank from $302 million to $208 million. The committee cited “poor justification” as a reason for the cuts.
The Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance program also experienced a cut despite the recent first flight of the full-scale demonstrator aircraft in September. The Air Force requested $1 billion to continue further development, however, the Senate cut that request by $70 million.
As it pertains to Naval warfare, the bill provides money to buy nine ships for a total procurement price tag of $21.35 billion, which is $1.44 billion more than the President’s request but less than what the House appropriated. The ships include one attack submarine, which is one less than the House bill but a match to what the administration requested; a Constellation-class frigate; two destroyers; and two towing and salvage ships. The Senate bill also calls for nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and four E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, as well as 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters, which is of great importance to the Boeing Company.
The Senate legislation fully funds the Pentagon’s $449 million budget request for defense-wide 5G projects, which was $19 million more than what the House funded. In their budget justification, House appropriators cited “historical under-execution” for its $430 million recommended allocation. The Pentagon is working with industry on multiple ongoing 5G experiments that are underway at military bases across the country. The department recently awarded $600 million in contracts for the effort.
House and Senate conferees met earlier this month to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the NDAA. Issues of contention include the renaming of Confederate-named military installations and the Afghanistan drawdown of military personnel. In a letter to conferees, a sizeable contingent of 37 Senate Democrats advocated moving forward with the renaming of the bases in spite of the veto threat by President Trump.
At least 55 representatives, 8 senators will be vacating committees
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Solar shipments remain strong despite impediments
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What you need to know about The Fight Over TikTok
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Opinion: Congress has a duty to enforce foreign trade deals
By Erik Paulsen, Total Spectrum Strategic Consultant
Now that election day is behind us, new and returning lawmakers in both parties are looking ahead to next year. They’re strategizing for what surely will be a momentous legislative session.
Trade enforcement deserves a spot high on my former colleagues’ to-do list. Holding our trading partners accountable to pacts, and negotiating robust new agreements with our allies, would create jobs and help our economy fully recover from COVID-19.
International trade has long been a boon for the U.S. economy. Last year, the United States traded nearly $6 trillion worth of goods and services with foreign nations. Nearly 39 million U.S. jobs rely on international trade. At a time when millions of Americans who want to work cannot find jobs, it’s never been more important to preserve and strengthen these economic opportunities.
Unfortunately, foreign trade barriers threaten many of these economic benefits.
For instance, local content requirements in Canada, Brazil, South Africa and India limit the amount of U.S. television programming that can be broadcast within their borders. And the world’s preeminent form of audio IP theft, “stream ripping” — illegally downloading a file from a legitimate streaming platform onto your own devices — is a regular occurrence in Canada. These practices unfairly devalue U.S. creative content and keep our artists from being fairly compensated for their work.
Similarly, unfair and often discriminatory medicine price controls in countries like Canada, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom undervalue U.S. biopharmaceuticals. These practices make it difficult for U.S. drug companies to break into foreign markets, sell new medicines at fair market prices and recoup R&D investments to develop new cures.
Many countries also ban or place unreasonable limits on U.S. imports of agriculture and livestock products. The United Kingdom doesn’t allow the import of certain U.S. poultry products. Brazil flat out bans the import of American “fresh, frozen, and further processed pork products.”
Congress has an essential role to play in stopping these trade violations. After all, it funds the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative — which negotiates and enforces trade treaties on our country’s behalf — and gives the final go-ahead to trade agreements. And, consistent with its constitutional authority to “regulate commerce with foreign nations,” lawmakers already have demanded robust U.S. trade negotiating objectives through the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority law. Now, Congress and the administration need to work together to advance their goals and eliminate onerous trade obstacles once and for all.
Policymakers can start by enforcing our trade deals, like the U.S.- Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). Since signing the deal in 2018, Korea has continued to undervalue American intellectual property, particularly when it comes to medicines. The United States should hold Korean officials accountable and demand that they “appropriately recognize the value of … patented pharmaceutical product[s],” like they promised.
Members also have a duty to pay close attention to ongoing trade negotiations, such as the phase two U.S.-Japan talks. During phase one discussions — which produced a limited treaty earlier this year — U.S. trade officials failed to negotiate robust protections for U.S. intellectual property. Lawmakers can wield their trade authority to ensure that American negotiators don’t make the same mistake during their second go-around.
The impending U.S.-U.K. trade agreement provides Congress with yet another opportunity. The United Kingdom routinely devalues U.S. pharmaceuticals and impedes U.S. agricultural exports. Addressing these trade barriers would create American jobs and set a good precedent for all other future trade deals.
In the next legislative session, lawmakers will inevitably find international trade negotiations on their dockets. Driving a hard bargain is the only way to establish a fair playing field for American companies and ensure a strong economic recovery.
Erik Paulsen represented Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2009 to 2019.
This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on November 12, 2020. The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
By Ramona Lessen, Executive Director, Total Spectrum
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Hearing on Quarterly CARES Act Report
Tuesday, December 1, 2020; 10:00 a.m.
To view a livestream of the hearing please click here.
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chairman
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ranking Member
The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
Secretary, Department of the Treasury
The Honorable Jerome H. Powell
Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Tuesday, December 1
- 10:00 a.m. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing – Topic: Quarterly CARES Act Report (witnesses: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Powell).
Wednesday, December 2
- 9:00 a.m. House Judiciary Committee hearing – Topic: Federal Bureau of Prisons/US Marshal Service Oversight.
- 9:15 a.m. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing – Topic: Navy/Marine Corps Readiness.
- 9:45 a.m. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Markup – Topic: Nuclear Energy Infrastructure/GSA Resolutions.
- 10:00 a.m. House Financial Services Committee hearing – Topic: Treasury/Federal Reserve’s Pandemic Response.
- 10:00 a.m. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing – Topic: Veteran Internet Spoofing/Exploitation Report.
- 10:00 a.m. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Markup – Topic: Pending Nominations.
- 10:05 a.m. House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing – Topic: Modernizing Veteran Eligibility for Care.
- 11:00 a.m. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing – Pending Nominations.
- 2:00 p.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing – Topic: Women/Girls Rights in the Middle East.
- 2:30 p.m. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management hearing – Topic: State/Local Cybersecurity During COVID-19.
- 2:30 p.m. Senate Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry Committee hearing – Topic: Agricultural Research/Security the US Food Supply.
Thursday, December 3
- 10:00 a.m. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing – Topic: Crossfire Hurricane Congressional Oversight.
- 10:00 a.m. House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing – Topic: Complete and Accurate Census Count.
- 10:00 a.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing – Topic: Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission.
- 10:00 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee Markup – Pending Nominations/Legislation.
- 1:00 p.m. House Armed Services Committee Hearing – Topic: Military Aviation Safety.
- 2:00 p.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing – Topic: The Conflict in Ethiopia.
This e-newsletter is produced by Total Spectrum/Steve Gordon and Associates and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The views expressed herein may include subjective commentary and analysis that are the views of the editors and authors alone. Information in this e-newsletter is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but that cannot be guaranteed as independently investigated or verified. Information in this e-newsletter is not an endorsement, advertisement, recommendation, or any type of advice; political, legal, financial or otherwise. For questions about the content of this e-newsletter, please contact the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.