Invariant, the D.C. government affairs shop headed by lobbying powerhouse and Democratic insider Heather Podesta, has inked a pact with trading platform E*Trade to pitch support for a bill currently working its way through Congress that would offer incentives to businesses that help their employees pay back their student loan debt.


Invariant will advocate on Capitol Hill for the passage of H.R. 1043 / S. 460, otherwise known as the “Employer Participation in Repayment Act.” That bill would allow businesses to make tax-free contributions to employees’ student loan payments, thereby potentially easing the escalating student debt crisis, which currently stands at $1.59 trillion across 44.7 million borrowers.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner (VA) and Republican Senator John Thune (SD) are the bill’s lead sponsors. A version was introduced last year in the House by Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA).

Even Ivanka Trump threw her support behind the bill last year, claiming in a press statement that she believes it would “have a transformative effect on students entering the workforce.”

Currently, only about eight percent of U.S.-based companies offer student loan repayment contributions, according to a 2019 analysis by the Society for Human Resource Management.

E*Trade in December acquired student loan provider Gradifi for $30 million, thereby adding student loan debt solutions—including employer-sponsored tools—to the financial services company’s suite of products.

A two-person team manages the account: Carolyn Coda, who was a special assistant at the Treasury Department under President George W. Bush; and Mary Stanton, previously a legislative assistant to former Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

Invariant was founded by CEO Heather Podesta in 2007. It rebranded from its former moniker, Heather Podesta + Partners, three years ago in an effort to project a more bipartisan approach.

The firm’s clients include Apple, American Beverage Association, Yelp, Dish Network and Toyota.