Texas Goes It Alone

Posted April 9, 2004 at 3:35pm

The Lone Star State has dumped the Washington lobbying firm of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) after the firm announced that it would also represent the state of Florida.

The Texas state government ended its $180,000-a-year contract with Piper Rudnick because state officials thought the firm’s contract with Florida represented a conflict of interest. [IMGCAP(1)]

The state of Florida had agreed to pay Piper Rudnick about $600,000 a year to prevent Congress from closing military bases in the state.

Piper Rudnick did not think the two contracts represented a conflict because it worked only on general-interest issues for Texas.

“Texas did not ask Piper Rudnick to undertake an assignment with respect to the federal government’s [military base-closing process], or, for that matter, with respect to any military installation in Texas,” said Thomas O’Neil III, who runs Piper Rudnick’s government affairs practice.

Armey, who joined Piper Rudnick after retiring as House Majority Leader, was the author of legislation during his tenure that helped to delay the shuttering of military bases.

Texas is now represented in Washington by the Federalist Group, a lobbying group that employs Drew Maloney, a former aide to current House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

But Texas has been taking bids for a new firm to replace Piper in Washington. Bids for the contract were due on Friday.

Nielsen Gets Help for Ratings. In the 90 years since it was founded by 26-year-old engineer Arthur Nielsen Sr., Nielsen Media Research has had little to do with Washington.

But that all changed in the past few months when Nielsen came under fire from News Corp., the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for planning to roll out a more modern television ratings system for New York City.

The minority groups charged that the new electronic ratings system would undercount the number of blacks and Hispanics watching television, thereby lowering advertising rates and perhaps leading to the cancellation of shows popular with minorities.

In response to a well-organized campaign from the minority groups, Nielson turned to K Street for help.

Nielsen hired ex-Rep. Bob Walker (R-Pa.) and former Republican aide Jack Howard of the Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates to defend the new ratings system.

Nielsen also relied on Phil Verveer of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, InfoTech Strategies and consultant Felix Sanchez in Washington.

In New York, Nielson turned to consultant Bill Lynch, a friend of Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who helped broker a final compromise on the issue last week.

In a decision made the day before the new ratings system was scheduled to take effect, Nielsen announced that it would delay the rollout for two months and named Rangel to an internal committee to ensure that minorities are not overlooked in the new system.

Safeway Plays It Safe. As a labor dispute heated up for Safeway in the Washington, D.C., area, the grocery giant tapped K Street for help.

New lobbying disclosure forms on PoliticalMoneyLine.com show that Safeway Inc. hired Lesher & Russell for help on “labor related issues impacting the food retailing industry.”

Alaska Lobby. The one-year-old North Star Group has signed up a number of new clients, according to new lobbying disclosure forms.

The firm, which specializes in issues that relate to Alaska, inked deals with the Sitka Trails Works Inc., United Charter Boats, MH Systems, Crab Rationalization and Buyback Group, and the Marine Conservation Alliance.

Most of the clients hired the North Star Group to help out on appropriations matters and the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act.

Law Firm Gets Props in Senate. Most K Street firms would cringe if they knew they were the subject of a speech on the Senate floor.

Not for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Late last month, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) gave a Senate floor speech praising the firm on the 25th anniversary of its decision to open an office in Delaware.

“If this organization’s first quarter century is any indication of what it will offer in the future, we have much to which to look forward,” Carper said.

The New York-based firm was founded in 1948 and opened the Wilmington office in May 1979.

Mark Preston contributed to this report.