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K Street Money Split Between Specter, Foe

The reverberations on K Street are still being felt nearly a year after Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) switched political parties, with Specter loyalists maintaining their support while some big business interests and longtime Republican donors are distancing themselves.

In the year leading up to his decision to switch parties, Specter had a plethora of K Streeters hosting events for him. Republican stalwart C. Boyden Gray and National Association of Federal Credit Unions lobbyists Dan Berger, Javier Sanchez and Jennifer Wahlen were among those listed as hosts for Specter events.

But now several high-profile Republicans are stepping up to support his general election challenger — should Specter get through the Democratic primary — former Rep. Pat Toomey (R).

Former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis (R), who is now at Ernst & Young, American Council of Life Insurers President Frank Keating, former Republican Party Chairman Jim Nicholson and his wife, Suzanne, were among the powerful Washingtonians listed as hosting a fundraiser for Toomey at the end of February.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) also attended the $1,000-per-couple reception at the home of Phillip and Patricia Norton.

A cabal of former Republican aides-turned-lobbyists also banded together Tuesday for a young professionals event for Toomey, with Republican Sens. John Thune (S.D.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.) as special guests. Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart’s Drew Cantor, a one-time aide to former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.); Cesar Conda of Navigators Global; Mathew Lapinski of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal; and Nickles Group lobbyist Brian Wild, a former Toomey chief of staff, were among those listed as co-hosts for the low-dollar event. Attendees were asked to contribute $50 for individuals.

Business groups have also taken a second look at supporting Specter.

Several associations that had been lobbying Specter to vote against the Employee Free Choice Act, which is a top priority of organized labor, met after his decision to switch parties. The groups opted to “keep their powder dry” until they knew how he was going to vote on the “card check” bill, according to lobbyists familiar with the discussions.

But the hold on contributing to Toomey was canceled after Specter came out in support of card check.

Specter says he isn’t worried about defections.

“My colleagues and former aides have been very supportive,” Specter said. “There was only one person on my staff, the Senate staff, who did not feel comfortable staying on, but stayed on for several weeks until I found a replacement.”

“People who have been loyal to me in the past have been very loyal, and I’ve been very loyal to them. That’s a two-way street,” he added.

Still, Specter’s decision to relinquish the GOP moniker has left many Republican power brokers unwilling to write him a check.

Many Republicans wanted to support Toomey in 2004, when he challenged Specter in the GOP primary, but felt they couldn’t because there was pressure from party leaders to back Specter, according to several lobbyists.

Additionally, for Republicans looking to potential future careers in government service, writing a check to a Democrat doesn’t look good.

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