Defensive Move

Posted September 12, 2003 at 4:15pm

Well-known Republican lobbyist Van Hipp Jr. lost a lucrative lobbying contract last week after it was discovered that he has a criminal record.

Hipp, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party who later served as a high-ranking Defense Department official, agreed to sever ties with the University of Tennessee when the school found out that he pleaded guilty to seven campaign misdemeanors stemming from his 1994 run for Congress.

“We wanted to stop the press,” said one source at the firm after newspapers in Tennessee picked up the story.

Hipp and his Washington lobbying firm, American Defense International, were paid $60,000 by the university in the first six months of the year, according to lobbying reports. The contract called for Hipp and three other lobbyists from American Defense International to lobby Members of Congress on legislation authorizing and funding the Defense Department.

The South Carolina attorney general’s

office confirmed that Hipp pleaded guilty to accepting seven donations from minors.

The university recently hired an in-house lobbyist who used to work for Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) and retains the law firm Preston Gates.

American Defense International ranks as one of the top lobbying firms on K Street, hauling in nearly $8 million in defense- related contracts in the past two years.

Hipp founded the firm after leaving the Defense Department and after his campaign for Congress. He lost to now-Gov. Mark Sanford in a 1994 Republican primary.

Shalala Sacked. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who is now the president of the University of Miami, has reversed field and agreed to testify in front of a House committee looking into whether college football’s Bowl Championship Series is fair to all teams.

Shalala had angered House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) by refusing to testify at a high-profile hearing on the topic earlier this month.

The former Clinton administration official declined to testify until a court settled a lawsuit against the University of Miami Hurricanes’ proposed move from the Big East into the more competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.

That riled Sensenbrenner, who has known Shalala from her days as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

At the start of the Judiciary Committee hearing, Sensenbrenner slammed Shalala for declining his invitation.

“I believe her testimony is integral to better assess the issues we will address at today’s hearing,” the chairman began. “Consequently, I intend for the committee to receive Donna Shalala’s testimony for today’s hearing within the next 60 days — whether she decides to submit it willingly or not.”

The diminutive Shalala has been called the “biggest player in college football” because she played a central role in the decision by Miami and Virginia Tech to ditch the Big East in favor of the ACC.

According to Sensenbrenner, the move “reinforced concerns that college sports have become increasingly dominated by a number of elite conferences who place their financial interests ahead of their commitment to the principles of fairness and sportsmanship that have traditionally defined intercollegiate athletic competition.”

Shalala and the chairman spoke on the telephone a few days after the hearing, and the university president promised that she would appear before the committee.

But there may be more obstacles before the hearing gets finalized.

While Sensenbrenner’s staff insists that Shalala has agreed to work things out “in the next two weeks” so that she can testify by the end of the year, a spokesman for the Miami Hurricanes said she “did assure the Congressman that she would be happy to testify, but I don’t know anything about the two-week part.”

Bilingual McCurry. Former White House press secretary and now professional image-maker Mike McCurry has signed up with Univision to help the Spanish media giant handle Washington once it completes its expected merger with Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.

The company, which will become the nation’s largest Hispanic media company, currently has no Washington office and just a few outside lobbyists. For the merger, Univision relied on Alcalde & Fay.

McCurry will advise the company on a part-time basis while retaining his current gigs as chairman of Grassroots.com and head of Public Strategies Washington.

The former Clinton aide says his role will be to “begin reaching out more to Washington.”

Tyco Tunes Its Staff. Fruzsina Harsanyi has been named vice president of public affairs for Tyco International.

She comes to Tyco from ABB Inc., where she was senior vice president for public affairs and corporate communications.

Not Reston on Her Laurels. The Reston, Va.-based American College of Radiology has named Cindy Moran as assistant executive director for its government relations office.

Moran comes to ACR from the Pharmacia Corp., where she was senior director for federal government affairs.

She previously held positions at Health and Human Services and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, in addition to working for then-Sen. John Tower (R-Texas).

From Toronto, Eh? Canadian parliamentary hopefuls wanting to gain an upper hand in Ottawa apparently think that getting a close look at K Street will help launch their political careers.

Kasra Nejatian of Toronto, the youngest candidate ever to run for Parliament, is in D.C. this fall learning the ropes at the Chwat & Company government relations firm, run by veteran lobbyist John Chwat.

Nejatian has experience on Parliament Hill, interning with Jason Kennedy, a Canadian minister of Parliament and with leaders of the Canadian Alliance Party.