Apr 14, 2021

Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome back to Sneak. Our nation's leaders honored another fallen defender of the U.S. Capitol.

🚨 Breaking: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Biden to make his first address to a joint session of Congress, set for April 28.

Today's newsletter — edited by Glen Johnson — is 678 words, a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Exclusive — Texas nonprofit got massive border contract after hiring Biden official

Migrants attempting to enter the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Photo: David Peinado/Xinhua via Getty Images

A Texas nonprofit that recently hired a Biden transition official got a contract worth as much as $530 million to help manage the influx of migrant children at the southern border, Axios' Lachlan Markay and Stef Kight have learned.

Why it matters: The contract is by far the largest ever awarded to Family Endeavors. It's potentially worth more than 12 times the group's most recently reported annual budget — a sign of the demand the new work will place on its operations.

Between the lines: Family Endeavors won the contract just months after it hired Andrew Lorenzen-Strait as its senior director for migrant services and federal affairs.

  • Lorenzen-Strait, a former official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, previously advised the Biden-Harris transition team on Department of Homeland Security policy and staffing matters.
  • He also ran a consulting firm advising companies on federal procurement practices, according to his LinkedIn page, with specific expertise on agencies that include the Administration for Children and Families — the division of the Department of Health and Human Services tasked with detaining and processing child migrants.
  • ACF officials did not respond to a request for comment from Axios. Family Endeavors said its contracting work on the border is "a continuation of services we have delivered to the migrant population since 2012."

What's new: ACF contracted Family Endeavors last month to provide "emergency intake" and "wrap-around care" services at a temporary facility in Pecos, Texas.

  • According to federal procurement records, ACF has disbursed $255 million to the nonprofit under the new contract, which has a maximum potential value of $530 million.
  • Family Endeavors' most recent publicly available annual tax filing, covering calendar year 2018, showed its annual budget for the year was just $43 million.

Keep reading.

2. Exclusive: $1 million ad buy defends Georgia law to business critics

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A leading conservative group is targeting the business community with a seven-figure ad buy on CNBC and local TV defending Georgia's new voting law from its corporate critics, Axios' Hans Nichols has learned.

Why it matters: By focusing on the C-suite through a network it watches, Heritage Action for America is offering a rejoinder to some companies — even Major League Baseball — after they waded so prominently into politics.

What they are saying: “President Biden is lying about Georgia’s new election reform,“ says a 60-second ad, which is part of a roughly $1 million buy on digital, cable and local television in Georgia. “This new ethics law doubles early voting on weekends.”

  • Jessica Anderson, executive director for Heritage Action, told Axios: "After weeks of media spin and corporate posturing around Georgia's new voting law, we thought it was time someone told the truth."

Keep reading.

3. Advocates, Democrats plan to push major pot reform

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Advocates and lawmakers favoring marijuana reform are trying to capitalize on the social justice movement and COVID-19 economic rebound to legalize and normalize the use of pot, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

Why it matters: The supporters are also trying to take advantage of polls showing broad public support — and get ahead of the reality Democrats could lose their control of Congress after the midterm elections next year.

The big picture: Cannabis is big business. U.S. sales hit a record $17.5 billion last year. Revenue for the NFL was $12 billion, by comparison.

  • Advocates note many dispensaries and legal marijuana distributors are run as small businesses and by minority owners.
  • They cite those facts while courting pro-business Republicans.
  • A Gallup poll in November also found 68% of Americans supported legalizing marijuana, a record high. There was majority support in every age group including 65+, and among about half of self-described Republicans, conservatives and weekly attendees of religious services.

Keep reading.

4. Border Democrats seek asylum revamp, more help from feds

Rep. Veronica Escobar. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

Two border-district Democrats in Congress are pressing the Biden administration to revamp the asylum process, saying the current migrant surge is highlighting significant flaws in the system, Stef and Axios' Russell Contreras report.

Why it matters: These lawmakers say the administration needs to start making concrete changes by summer. "If it's this bad in 90 days, it's hard to have excuses," Rep. Vicente Gonzalez told Axios.

Driving the news: Axios met with Gonzalez and Rep. Veronica Escobar last week in their Texas districts, which include the border cities of McAllen and El Paso.

  • Both said better asylum systems and new pathways for Central American migrants can reduce future surges while ensuring humanitarian protections.
  • Gonzalez is promoting setting up "safe zones" in southern Mexico or Guatemala, guarded centers where people could stay safely while their claims are processed by U.S. officials.

Keep reading.

5. Pic du jour

Photo: Drew Angerer/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden presents Logan Evans with a commemorative Challenge Coin during a ceremony to honor his father, slain U.S. Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans.

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