MCI Reaches Out and Touches Ex-Senator

Posted September 5, 2003 at 5:32pm

In an effort to emerge from bankruptcy, telecommunications giant MCI is dialing in for support from some more big-name lobbyists.

This time the beleaguered firm has signed up former Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) to help it fight a criminal lawsuit in Oklahoma that threatens to delay the company’s return. [IMGCAP(1)]

“By all means, [criminal investigations] should go forth. But don’t punish the innocent — the employees, the stockholders, the creditors,” Garn, former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said in an interview.

Garn is now working for Cerebus Capital Management, which is part of the creditor’s committee trying to get WorldCom — now known as MCI — out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

A second set of MCI creditors has hired the consulting firm founded by former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani.

Garn believes that a criminal case being brought against WorldCom’s former CEO, Bernard Ebbers, by the Oklahoma attorney general is complicating the company’s efforts to emerge from bankruptcy. He said in an interview that the states should leave the WorldCom investigation to federal officials.

MCI’s opponents, including AT&T and Verizon Communications, believe the bankrupt telecom company would have an unfair advantage in the marketplace if it is allowed to emerge from bankruptcy unburdened by debt.

“Obviously, they would like to see MCI not come out of bankruptcy,” Garn said. “I don’t like to use the word conspiracy,” but he added that the public relations campaign launched by MCI’s competitors, along with the criminal proceedings in Oklahoma, are “unfortunate” and are adding salt to still-sore wounds.

MCI also retains Patton Boggs, the Wexler-Walker Group and Capitol Tax Partners.

Reconstructing Iraq. Former Senator and onetime Defense Secretary William Cohen (R-Maine) and his two-year-old consulting firm, the Cohen Group, have registered to lobby for Nour USA, an Iraq business development group.

But Cohen is not the only D.C. shop signing up clients who want a piece of the reconstruction pie.

Winston & Strawn has signed on the FATA Group, an Italian engineering, equipment and technology firm that wants to win reconstruction contracts.

The Dutko Group is aiding the Clifford Chance law firm in matters relating to reconstruction.

Ex-Tauzin Aide Broadens Client Base. Independent lobbyist Theodore Jones, a close ally and family friend of House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), has signed on two new clients interested in energy and telecommunications issues that stand before Tauzin’s committee.

The Coushatta American Indian tribe of Louisiana hired Jones to lobby on energy matters.

The Shaw Group, an engineering, construction and pipe fabrication outfit, has also sought advice from Jones, according to filings on PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

Jones also has signed up Gulf Coast Wireless and BellSouth to consult on telecommunications issues.

Building Bridges to Congress. The nation’s construction industry, trying to make inroads on Capitol Hill, plans to launch a public relations effort this fall to urge Congress to reauthorize billions of dollars of transportation spending.

As part of the effort, the 35,000-member Associated General Contractors has hired Qorvis Communications, one of Washington’s most aggressive public relations firms.

New Guns in Univision Fight. While Spanish-language media outlets have been awaiting word from the Federal Communications Commission on a merger request from Univision and the Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., two lobbyists have been brought on to work Capitol Hill.

According to lobbying filings compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine, Alcade & Fay has been retained by Univision to counsel on merger-related issues and small-business tax incentives. Meanwhile, Spanish Broadcasting System has hired Mercury Strategies to monitor developments with legislation dealing with minorities in the media.

Metabolife Strengthens Lobbying Effort. Metabolife, the nation’s leading producer of ephedra has signed up King & Spalding to help it through a Congressional investigation into the industry.

Earlier this year, Tauzin launched an investigation into makers of the controversial diet and performance-enhancing drug after several well-known athletes died after taking the drug.

In addition to the Congressional hearing, the Food and Drug Administration is finalizing new regulations for the industry.

Pfizer Gets Shot in the Arm. As House and Senate debate heated up on a host of health care issues, Pfizer Inc. hired a string of lobbyists to help it out on Capitol Hill, new documents show.

In August, Pfizer hired Republican heavyweights Barbour Griffith & Rogers and The Duberstein Group.

The drug maker also signed up lobbyist Duane Morris and Public Affairs Management.

Piper Rudnick Signs New Clients. The Motion Picture Association of America has retained Piper Rudnick to lobby on transportation-related rules and regulations applying to “hours of service,” according to lobbying filings. The firm also landed BellSouth to work on homeland security issues.

Olympic Reform. The Independent Commission on Reform of the U.S. Olympic Committee has brought on the law firm of Wilmer Cutler & Pickering for lobbying consultation.

The panel was formed at the request of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) to clean up the U.S. Olympic Committee.