A powerful D.C. lobbying firm co-founded by former Clinton associate John Podesta has been hired by the L.A.-based marketer of nutritional supplements, reports the NY Post. Presumably, the Podesta firm will try pushing back efforts to launch a federal inquiry into Herbalife's business practices, which are aimed heavily at Latinos and have been likened by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman as a pyramid scheme. At least three Latino lawmakers, including California Rep. Linda Sanchez, have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Herbalife. Meanwhile, Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, expressed disappointment at former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for accepting an advisory post at Herbalife. "I have to believe in my heart he would not have taken this gig if he realized so many Latinos were being defrauded by the company because they sign up thinking they're going to make money and they end up losing money instead," Wilkes said. In a statement, Villaraigosa said the company has been "a solid member of the Los Angeles business community and a strong presence within the Latino community since the company was founded here in 1980." Seems unlikely anything will come of the criticism or, if it happens, the FTC investigation, though Villaraigosa's decision to accept the Herbalife job speaks volumes about his priorities these days. Guess the ex-mayor was right when he insisted that we didn't have to worry about his financial future.
*Reader points out that John Podesta, who was White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration, is no longer involved in the firm. He is currently chair of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.