Asparagus, Not Pork

Posted March 19, 2004 at 2:22pm

The asparagus lobby has expanded its lobbying arm on Capitol Hill while trying to keep research funding for the industry from looking like pork.

[IMGCAP(1)]Three months ago, the Washington Asparagus Commission enlisted Cara Dalmolin and Will Hollier of The Gallatin Group to help persuade Congress to spend more money on research and development for new harvesting equipment for asparagus farmers in Washington state.

Hollier is a former staffer for Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), while Dalmolin worked for Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.).

Congress has spent nearly $800,000 in the past three years on research into new processing, packing and production techniques for asparagus.

But with an increasing amount of asparagus coming from abroad, the asparagus lobby wants more funding to help level the green-stalked playing field.

The call to arms in the asparagus

industry is the direct result of the 1991 Andean Trade Preferences Act, which exempted several South American countries from tariffs on agricultural goods. 

The bill was an attempt to dissuade South American farmers from growing crops like coca and poppi, plants used in the production of cocaine and heroin.

But Hollier said the bill also “decimated the Washington asparagus trade.”

The Central Washington region currently accounts for 40 percent of the asparagus grown in the United States.

While Hollier could not cite exactly how much funding the commission wants for next year, he said they are looking for a “significant increase” that would likely go to the Washington state Agriculture Department.

“This would not just be research money. This would be implementation of that research already done,” said Hollier, claiming that without new funding the Central Washington asparagus industry would be dead in a year.

The Gallatin Group would not discuss its fee for lobbying on behalf of the Washington Asparagus Commission, but said it’s not that much.

“Let’s put it this way: They’re one of my smaller clients,” Hollier said.

Fluor Moves to the Hill. In its latest move to boost its presence in Washington, the Fluor Corp. has bought a $2.9 million townhouse on Capitol Hill to house its lobbyists and host fundraisers.

“We hope to be using it for just about everything,” said David Marventano, who starting building Fluor’s Washington team last year when he left his powerful post as staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Marventano also is looking to pick up a few lobbyists. “We’re in the process of growing our government relations team,” he said.

He also wants to double the size of the company’s political action committee to $500,000 per cycle.

So far this election cycle, Fluor contributed $70,000 to Republican candidates and $12,000 to Democrats, according to fundraising data compiled by the nonpartisan PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

In his first year at Fluor, Marventano has added just one lobbyist so far: Nydia Bonnin, who worked with Marventano at both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Energy and Commerce panel.

A Model for K Street? If the key to a good lobbyist is getting the attention of lawmakers, then Bo Derek has a long career ahead of her in Washington.

The star of the movie “10” came to Capitol Hill last week to draw attention to legislation banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Derek joined Reps. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), John Spratt (D-S.C.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) at a press conference to call for Congress to approve the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

The legislation also is supported by the Congressional Horse Caucus, the National Horse Protection Coalition and lobbying firm PodestaMattoon.

According to the bill’s backers, more than 49,000 horses were slaughtered in the United States at two foreign-owned slaughterhouses for human consumption in Europe and Asia. Tens of thousands more were exported live and slaughtered abroad.

Sweeney, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Horse Caucus, is co-sponsoring the bill with several lawmakers including Whitfield — who is a thoroughbred owner.

Alexander Nets Two Clients. The all-Republican Alexander Strategies Group has signed deals with a pair of large clients.

New lobbying filings on PoliticalMoneyLine.com show that the company will represent Microsoft and Time Warner on tax and financial services issues.

Alexander Strategies’ team includes Tony Rudy and Ed Buckham, two longtime allies of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).