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Lobbyists Vie for Mentions in State of the Union

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Most activists and advocates have been contacting administration officials for weeks, suggesting a line or two for Obama’s Feb. 12 address.

Washington lobbyists listen to the State of the Union address the way they read Beltway insider books. Like flipping straight to the index to find their names, they hang on the president’s remarks waiting for any mention of their clients’ causes.

But while most are hoping for a boost from the year’s most anticipated political address, others don’t want to be anywhere near it.

“I have a client that I’ve advised not to reach out to the White House,” one lobbyist said, “because it could hurt their chances for support from Republicans.”

Another K Street source said a mention in the speech can be a mixed bag depending on the issue. “If it were a concession like medical liability reform was, I don’t think it hurts,” the second lobbyist said. “If it’s more stimulus for green energy companies like Solyndra, it probably doesn’t help [with Republicans].”

Most activists and advocates have been contacting administration officials for weeks, suggesting a line or two in the Feb. 12 address. They’re aware that their opponents are doing the same.

“Everybody hangs on every word the president says in the State of the Union, looking for their word, their sentence, their phrase, with fingers crossed,” said James Pinkerton, who co-chairs the RATE Coalition, which lobbies for a lower corporate tax rate.

President Barack Obama this week has filled his schedule with meetings with progressive activists, corporate CEOs and trade association heads. The meetings are not about the State of the Union but about broader policy issues, many of which are likely to be mentioned in the speech. On Thursday, for example, Obama has scheduled a 10 a.m. session with top association executives such as former Michigan Gov. John Engler, who heads the Business Roundtable.

Eliseo Medina, an official with the Service Employees International Union and an advocate of a comprehensive immigration overhaul, participated in a Tuesday session at the White House on that issue. Medina said Obama “is fully committed to making the case to the American people.”

“None of us has rose-colored glasses on; we know it’s going to be difficult,” Medina said. “The president will be really helpful by putting a human face on this.”

Robert Raben, who runs The Raben Group, expects that at least two of his clients’ causes — gun safety and immigration — will merit prominent mentions in the speech. The Raben Group represents Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the National Immigration Forum.

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