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K Street Files: Wish Upon a Czar

The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, a group of more than 600 associations and businesses that coordinated industry support for the PRO-IP Act, delivered a letter to Obama in December and has more recently ramped up industry outreach around the IPEC position.

“There is some anxiety,” said a member of the coalition who asked not to be named. “We see a strong need for the IPEC and would have hoped to have a nominee by now.”

Going Nuts. If the nation’s peanut farmers had their way, it would be Jimmy Carter in the White House and a peanut crop on the South Lawn instead of a vegetable garden.

The United Peanut Alliance, representing peanut growers in six states, sent a letter to President Barack Obama on March 17 raising concerns that his comments in his March 14 radio address that daughter Sasha “has peanut butter sandwiches for lunch probably three times a week” and “no parent should have to worry that their child is going to get sick from their lunch” may have misled American consumers into believing peanut butter products are not safe.

The $1 billion peanut industry, hit hard by both the recent salmonella crisis and the struggling economy, brought in its largest crop in more than a decade last year and is concerned that low consumption will affect pricing and hurt growers, according to Robbie Blount, executive director of the Western Peanut Growers Association, and one of the letter’s signatories.

In the letter, the peanut growers asked for the president’s assistance in assuring American consumers that peanuts are safe and requested a White House meeting to update the president on the status of the crisis.

“We would like the opportunity to educate the president on this issue,” Blount said. “The message is peanut butter brands found on grocery store shelves are safe for you and your family.”

The White House had not responded to the letter as of press time Tuesday.

A Taxing Debate. Nonprofit groups are rallying behind a recent proposal by Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would lower tax bills for private foundations that stand to get caught up in a tax code wrinkle.

The Council on Foundations, which represents more than 2,000 organizations, is encouraging lawmakers to standardize how its members pay excise taxes, levies that were designed to encourage grant-making but that now threaten many struggling groups with additional tax penalties.

Former Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.), president of the council, recently wrote to Schumer in support of his excise tax plan, writing that it would increase private foundations’ “payout rates, as most of our member foundations have done recently, and not be penalized.”

“We do not want the excise tax to serve as an unintended disincentive for foundations to increase giving and respond to the economic crisis or future natural or man-made disasters,” Gunderson wrote.

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