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K Street Files: Lights, Camera, Trade

An ongoing legal battle between Big Oil and Ecuadorian indigenous tribes has found its way back to Capitol Hill, bringing with it high-powered lobbyists, high-wattage stars and an old Harvard Law classmate of the new president.

“Crude,” a documentary made by supporters of a group of Amazon rain forest residents who have waged a 15-year legal battle against Chevron for alleged dumping of oil waste, will debut in Washington on Tuesday on Capitol Hill and at the Motion Picture Association of America.

On hand will be Trudie Styler, wife of the singer Sting, who is featured in the film, and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who last year traveled to the area and has become a champion of the indigenous residents.

Tuesday’s screenings come as the administration prepares to decide by June 1 whether Ecuador should continue receiving trade benefits under the Andean Trade Preferences Act.

Plaintiffs in the case have previously claimed that Chevron was trying to leverage its way out of the lawsuit by lobbying to end trade benefits to the country. That, in turn, could persuade the Ecuadorian government not to enforce any possible judgment.

Chevron has long had a high-powered lobbying presence in Washington, including Republican lobbyist Wayne Berman and former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.).

The plaintiff’s supporters have found renewed hope for their cause with a new Congress and a new president, who as a Senator urged the office of the U.S. trade representative not to intervene in the lawsuit.

The Philadelphia law firm representing the plaintiffs in the case has recruited Democratic lobbyist Ben Barnes, the former lieutenant governor of Texas, to lead outreach in Washington. Steven Donziger, the New York lawyer leading the case, attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and previously met with the then-Senator to discuss the case.

“It is likely the committees in Congress will pay a lot of attention to what this administration says regarding reauthorization,” said a lobbyist who has closely followed the case.

K Street Moves. Barnes & Thornburg has added former Environmental Protection Agency official Susan Parker Bodine as a partner in the firm’s environmental law department. Bodine had been assistant administrator of the agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

• The Washington office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has expanded with the addition of Christopher Ornelas as counsel in the firm’s government relations and telecommunications, media and technology practices. Ornelas had previously been counsel on communications and technology to then-Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.).

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