It can be a challenge for anyone to navigate the Capitol, but imagine doing it blind.
That’s what 500 activists from the National Federation of the Blind did last week during the group’s lobby days.
“We have a number of people who are very skilled at using a white cane or guide dog,” said John Paré, the group’s executive director for strategic initiatives.
Before pressing Members and staff on the group’s 112th to-do list, the advocates started each session by thanking lawmakers for passing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act last year during the lame-duck session. The law requires quiet electric and hybrid vehicles to make some sound, so blind pedestrians know they are there.
Members of the federation met with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who sponsored last year’s measure, as well as with Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).
The group also heard from Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and former New York Gov. David Paterson (D), who is blind.
Paterson joined the group last week and signed on as a paid, part-time consultant.
“He’s going to do legislative outreach and partnerships,” Paré explained.
And at the NFB’s introductory session, members got an unexpected pep talk from former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), whose sister is active in the group.
“He came to visit his sister,” Paré said. “I talked to him and asked him to come to the podium and make some comments. First thing he said was, ‘I’m retired.’ But he urged us to work hard and to continue to try and improve educational and employment opportunities.”
The NFB also is lobbying for a bill that would require home appliances and consumer electronics to have audio or other features that make them accessible to blind people.
Democrats in Demand
Joseph Onek, senior counsel to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has decamped for K Street. The one-time senior policy analyst at the Open Society Institute will be a principal at the all-Democratic Raben Group.
His career has included stints in the Carter and Clinton administrations as well as a law practice at Crowell & Moring. He also previously worked for then-Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
Jeanne Butterfield, the former executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, also joined Raben this month as a special counsel.
Building Back the Business
Ogilvy Government Relations, which last year saw its revenue decline as it lost six lobbyists who started their own firms, is working on making a comeback. It has added a new client: the Travelers Companies Inc.
The firm will lobby on matters related to financial services reform, flood insurance and tort reform. Ogilvy’s Justin Daly, who previously was a counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission, will take the lead. Daly also was a senior counsel to the Senate Banking and House Financial Services committees.
K Street Moves
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association has a new senior vice president for government affairs. John Coster, most recently with the National Community Pharmacists Association, will start Feb. 14.