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K Street Files: Checking In

One of the top perks of running a trade association is having the group’s political action committee at the ready. Even so, some of the top dogs at the major health care lobbying organizations have cut a handful of personal checks, according to just-filed semiannual LD-203 reports. Not surprisingly, the recipients of those donations are some of the Members in charge of crafting health care reform legislation.

Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, reported donating just less than $7,000 for the first half of 2009. Her recipients included Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who has served as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s point man in Chairman Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) absence. She also cut a $1,000 check to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and HELP member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Senate Finance member Tom Carper (D-Del.) collected $620, the filing shows.

Chip Kahn, who runs the Federation of American Hospitals, reported donating $5,000 in campaign contributions to a bipartisan collection of Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and HELP members Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who runs the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, gave out just one dose: a $500 donation to Ways and Means member Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.). The lobbying report says the money came from the Billy Tauzin Congressional Committee.

The filings also show health insurer Cigna gave $250,000 to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation in honor of Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), a member of the foundation’s board of directors. Partners HealthCare donated $200,000 to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association, another key stakeholder in the health care debate, reported spending $195,965.21 to honor Edward Kennedy and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), among others, as part of the group’s Dr. Nathan Davis Awards for Outstanding Government Service.

And the Biotechnology Industry Organization reported spending more than $70,000 in honorary expenses, benefiting such Members and staffers as Kennedy, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Senate Finance Committee Staff Director Russ Sullivan.

Done Deal? Three financial services industry sources say a deal is nearly done to bring on former Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-Texas) to run the Washington, D.C., operation of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. Bentsen, currently president of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for SIFMA said the group does not comment on personnel matters. Bentsen would replace Michael Pease, who left earlier this year for Goldman Sachs.

Kevin Fromer, a top legislative affairs aide at the Treasury Department during the Bush administration, reportedly turned down the position.

The sources said the speculation is that Bentsen would be the eventual replacement for SIFMA CEO Tim Ryan.

Citizens Against Health Care. Citizens Against Government Waste has made its name singling out lawmakers’ pet projects and pork-barrel waste.

But CAGW isn’t stoping there. The watchdog group is also taking the sides of conservatives in the ongoing health care debate.

“The Obama/Pelosi/Reid healthcare plan being debated right now on Capitol Hill may be the single most dangerous piece of legislation I have seen in my 35 years in Washington, and we urgently need your help to STOP it!” CAGW President Tom Schatz wrote in an e-mail action alert last week.

CAGW has been known to take positions favorable to donors in the past. Per usual, the group is staying mum on whether any of its contributors have a large industry stake in the fight.

“We have been doing this for 25 years, so certainly our membership is very supportive,” Schatz said.

Schatz also included a fundraising pitch in his e-mail blast, to “help CCAGW wage and win this battle.”

The group, which uses its Council for Citizens Against Government Waste as its lobbying arm, is telling lawmakers to address the problems with Medicare reform before dealing with larger health care issues.

In addition to sending letters up to the Hill, CAGW is urging its members to contact their representatives and expects to do another direct mailing in August on the health care package.

Grass-Roots Group Hires DCI. The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights, a grass-roots group that has been pushing back against President Barack Obama’s health care plan, has hired some high-powered public relations guns to aid its cause.

Headed by former American Medical Association President Donald Palmisano, the group has brought on DCI Group.

“DCI Group’s services were obtained by this non-partisan group to provide them with public relations support,” DCI spokesman Geoffrey Basye said in an e-mail statement.

Chrysler Re-Enters K Street. The struggling auto company Chrysler is out of bankruptcy and back in the influence game.

Re-emerging as Chrysler Group, the automaker has rehired Venable and Timmons & Co., according to recently filed lobbying disclosure reports.

Chrysler has been lobbying heavily against a bill that auto dealers are pushing that would undo any changes made by Chrysler or General Motors in their dealer agreements during their bankruptcies. The bill passed in the House earlier this month, but its fate in the Senate is uncertain.

Chrysler spent $1.4 million on lobbying, while Chrysler Group reported spending $316,805 during the second quarter of 2009.

Moving on Up. Engineering firm CH2M Hill has named Howlie Davis as its senior vice president and director of U.S. government affairs. Davis most recently served as the company’s director of national government affairs.

As head of the Washington, D.C., office, Hill will now lead the firm’s federal, state and local government affairs teams.

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