Consumer robotics company iRobot becomes the latest U.S. company to retain lobbying support on Capitol Hill in light of the Trump admin’s escalating trade dispute with China.
The Bedford, MA-headquartered technology company, which manufactures autonomous consumer vacuum cleaners such as the popular Roomba, hired legislative policy and strategic consulting firm Van Heuvelen Strategies, LLC to lobby “on tariffs on vacuum cleaners manufactured in China,” according to lobbying registration documents filed with Congress in October.
iRobot makes its vacuums in China. Press outlets in late October reported that the robotics company’s shares fell 14 percent amid investor worries surrounding how the three rounds of tariffs that President Trump has slapped on Chinese imports since the beginning of the year might effect future distribution of its products.
The company, which was founded in 1990 by three MIT grads, still managed to outperform earnings and revenue expectations for the third quarter, however, but said in an earnings call that it expects the tariffs to hurt margins in 2018's fourth quarter. Executives also said the company does not currently plan to raise the prices on its Roomba products.
The news comes after it was reported that digital camera giant GoPro Inc. had hired a lobbying firm regarding tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. This is the law Trump used to give him authorization to slap tariffs on China.
A three-member team at handles the iRobot account, including VH Strategies principal Bob Van Heuvelen, who was formerly chief of staff to Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and director of civil and regulatory enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency between 1991 and 1997. He’ll be joined by Stephen Ward, who was previously chief of staff to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); and Valerie West, who was natural resources director to Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), as well as a congressional liaison to the Bureau of Reclamation and a staffer on the House Natural Resources Committee.