Senior Duo

Posted March 4, 2005 at 6:40pm

The AARP may have a formidable grass-roots network and in-house lobbying team, but the seniors’ group has so much riding on Social Security reform that it has tapped an outside duo to lobby against President Bush’s plan. [IMGCAP(1)]

Former Reps. Jim Chapman (D-Texas) and William Lowery (R-Calif.) have signed on to the AARP’s cause.

“As we have done in the past, we have somebody from the Democratic side and somebody on the Republican side,” said David Certner, the AARP’s director of federal affairs. “We thought it was useful to have two former Members who could help us hear what people are saying and to help people on the Hill hear more closely what we are saying.”

Lowery works for the firm Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & Shockey, while Chapman is at Bracewell & Patterson.

If Chapman were still in Congress, he said, “I would have been, in my personal politics, squarely where AARP is: Fix the things that need to be fixed, fix the current program without diverting payroll taxes into personal accounts.”

Hitting the Streets. At least inside the Beltway, the battle over Social Security has so far remained polite, limited to verbal sparring among Members of Congress and the interest groups aligning on either side of the debate.

Today, the debate spills into Washington’s streets, as one group opposing President Bush’s drive to overhaul the massive retirement program stages protests on the West Lawn of the Capitol and outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the powerhouse business lobby that has been a prominent supporter of Bush on the issue (and which, conveniently enough, is located just across Lafayette Park from the White House).

ACORN, a community organization representing low- and moderate-income families, will bring about 800 protesters to the Chamber’s downtown doorstep.

“They’ve been a supporter of Social Security reform and at the forefront of this,” ACORN spokeswoman Allison Conyers said of the business lobby. “We’re not convinced privatization of Social Security is in the best interest of our members.”

Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, a Washington group opposing the president’s plan, will speak at the protest outside the Chamber. Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Edward Kennedy (Mass.) will address the group’s rally on Capitol Hill. A spokesman for the Chamber declined to comment.

The Chamber belongs to the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, the coalition lobbying Congress for reform of the federal retirement program, but is not the lead organizer of the group.

Stick ’Em Up. Aspiring Bonnies and Clydes beware: The National Armored Car Association wants to make it a federal crime to stick up an armored car.

The money toters’ trade association has hired Larry Sabbath, of Sabbath Government Relations, to get a bill passed that would subject violent car robbers to the same penalties that violent bank robbers already face.

After all, Sabbath said, the cars often “carry more money than banks do.” He said that armored car hold-ups have become more frequent and more violent in recent years. Yet no language exists that clearly makes the offense a federal crime, he said.

The association convinced Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) to propose a bill last year, but it stalled at the end of the session. Chabot has agreed to try again, and Sabbath said he is lobbying Republican and Democratic staffers on the judiciary committees.

A Voice for Lobbying. Most lobbyists spend early March inundated with out-of-town clients and corporate honchos who want to deliver their messages to Capitol Hill.

“We need to put our issues to the test and try to compete with the other interests that are out there,” said Michael Fulton, a lobbyist at Golin/Harris International who has had about a dozen clients in town in recent days. “The way you do that is bring constituents to town.”

In order to stand out, some advocates put a twist on the more staid and humdrum Congressional visits.

Take the International Music Products Association.

The group and its lobbyist, Leo Coco, a senior policy adviser with the firm Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, are bringing such notable lobbyists as members of the bands The Commodores and Take Six and “American Idol” celebs Diana DeGarmo, Justin Guarini and John Stevens.

Their message, Coco said, is that they support music in schools — and they want Members’ backing as well.

The visiting celebs will focus on Congressional leadership and education committees, he said.

The singers “are passionate about this issue. They’re volunteering their time,” said Coco, a former deputy assistant secretary in the Education Department.

Coco said the talent will lobby by day on March 9 and take to the stage for a Congressional reception at the 9:30 Club. It’s billed as “Onstage: An Evening for Music Education.”

In a sign that the issue engenders broad bipartisan appeal, the event’s co-chairmen include House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), among others.

K Street Moves. Former Surface Transportation Board member William Clyburn Jr. has opened up a solo lobbying and consulting firm and has registered to represent the BellSouth Corp.

“That is my first paying lobbying client,” said Clyburn, a staffer on the Senate Commerce Committee back in the 1990s and most recently senior counsel to then-Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.). Miller, who retired from Congress last year, has joined the firm McKenna Long and Aldridge.

Clyburn, 38, said his work for BellSouth includes efforts to update the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Clyburn said he is in talks with firms that may be interested in partnering with him.

Paige Ralston, a deputy press secretary for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), is joining the Recording Industry Association of America as a director of strategic communications. … The Sheridan Group is launching a West Coast office, in San Francisco, which will be directed by Scott Boule. Prior to joining the firm, Boule served five years as a policy adviser to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). … Another Pelosi alum, Kori Bernards, is joining the Encino, Calif., office of the Motion Picture Association of America. Bernards, most recently a senior adviser to Pelosi, will be a vice president of corporate communications for the MPAA. … Tom Gerety, executive director of the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, is leaving to return to teaching and writing. … Artemis Strategies has hired John Van Fossen, formerly chief of staff to Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), and Leslie Kaplan Thurman, previously director of government relations for the United States Telecom Association. … Jane Loewenson, a longtime senior health policy adviser to then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), joins the National Partnership for Women and Families as director of health policy. … George W. Cook, formerly an account executive with Griffin Communications in Columbus, Ohio, has joined the staff of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association.