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K Street Files: Fromer Rejects SIFMA

The Security Industries and Financial Markets Association’s expected decision to name former Bush White House aide Kevin Fromer as its chief lobbyist hit a snag this week after Fromer turned down the trade group’s job offer, according to several financial services lobbyists.

Fromer, who was the top legislative affairs aide at the Treasury Department under former Secretary Henry Paulson, had been criticized by industry insiders for his GOP credentials, his lack of trade group know-how and his in-house experience.

While Fromer’s name has been floated as the lead candidate for SIFMA’s top lobbying job over the past two weeks, the trade group is so far staying mum.

“We do not comment on these types of personal matters,” SIFMA spokesman Travis Larson said.

SIFMA has been searching for nearly a month to replace Michael Paese, a Democrat, who left to run Goldman

Sachs’ in-house Washington lobbying team. SIFMA’s chief executive is Republican Tim Ryan.

Fromer’s decision to walk away from SIFMA will surely reignite speculation on whether the trade group’s top Democratic lobbyist, Scott DeFife, is still under consideration for the position.

Should DeFife be passed over for the position, it would be the second time since the one-time senior policy director to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was not selected as the group’s chief lobbyist. He is currently acting as head of SIFMA’s Washington, D.C., office.

Green Light. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) will release his blueprint Thursday for a new transportation bill, legislation that should spur hundreds of lobbyists to fan out across Capitol Hill in search of billions of dollars in upgrades to highways and rail lines.

“The lobbying effort that is going to take place in part due to the economic downturn is going to be unprecedented,” a transportation lobbyist said this week. “This is going to be a situation where any or all transportation- or infrastructure-related lobbying shops are going to pursue full-bore using every available means in order to secure their interests.”

Oberstar is slated to unveil his sketch of transportation priorities at a June 18 Capitol Hill press conference, which was originally scheduled for today. According to a release, Oberstar “has promised that the authorization will transform the way the federal government invests highway, safety and transit funds.”

Sharing the federal government’s increasingly limited resources in a down economy sets the stage for a pitched battle between state governments, building materials producers and equipment makers, all of whom will be looking for their share of the money.

Complicating matters on the committee is Oberstar himself, who is no friend of the earmarking process and is poised for a possible showdown with his pork-inclined colleagues whose districts are facing double-digit unemployment figures.

“At this point in time, the only entity that has money is the federal government,” the lobbyist said.

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