Shopping for Help

Posted March 11, 2005 at 5:56pm

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is embarking on a major push to expand its presence in Washington, has added an outside lobbyist to its roster.

The company, whose top in-house lobbyist Erik Winborn resigned recently, has tapped George Koch, a lobbyist with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham.

Koch, who spent 24 years as president and chief executive of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, will handle “general congressional relations,” according to a lobbying disclosure form filed with the Senate Office of Public Records.

[IMGCAP(1)] Koch could not be reached for comment. A colleague in his office confirmed the registration but declined to disclose the size of the contract.

Wal-Mart’s key legislative issues include trade, tax and labor relations. The company has come under increasing criticism for its use of foreign suppliers, its position on employee benefits and its staunch anti-union position.

One of Koch’s sons, Robert Koch, president of the Wine Institute, is married to Doro Bush Koch, president Bush’s sister.

Making the Grade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its annual list of the most business-friendly lawmakers, and while it should come as no surprise that the overwhelming majority were Republicans, there were some notable exceptions.

Among the handful of Democrats making the list were four members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Reps. Artur Davis (Ala.), David Scott (Ga.) and Albert Wynn (Md.) all made their first appearance on the list, while their Caucus-mate Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.) returned.

“We’ve been working very closely with the CBC,” said Bill Morley, the chamber’s vice president of Congressional affairs. “There’s a real confluence of interest between us when it comes to promoting economic development and job growth. We’re not going to agree on everything, but we’re having a dialogue.”

Meanwhile, just two Republicans were conspicuously absent from the chamber’s good graces: Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). Both broke with the chamber’s agenda on some appropriations votes, among others, Morley said.

Paul and McCain were in a distinct minority of lawmakers who did not make the list: The chamber’s “Spirit of Enterprise” award went to 303 Members this year. The group awards its distinction based on key votes on tort reform, taxes and pension legislation, among others.

Securing Face Time. The Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License plans to dispatch a small team of volunteer lobbyists to Capitol Hill Tuesday and Wednesday.

The group, composed mainly of families who lost someone in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, wants Congress to pass legislation that would make each state meet national standards for its drivers’ licenses. Fake drivers’ licenses helped the 9/11 hijackers carry out their attacks.

“You would still get it from your local DMV,” said Amanda Bowman, the group’s volunteer president, who added that the coalition is also planning an advertising and PR campaign on the matter.

“New York and New Jersey are quite strictly regulated, but we’re only as strong as our weakest link. In some states you can just sort of wander in.”

Bowman said drivers’ licenses are “an internal passport. We use it to rent trucks, to get onto airplanes and to get access to office buildings.”

Bowman said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) has committed to introducing legislation.

Revved Up. The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, which represents such companies as American Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., gathered key Congressional supporters last week in the Rayburn House Office Building for a press conference touting the benefits its member companies have brought to the U.S. economy.

The AIAM, which got media relations help from a Qorvis Communications team led by Don Goldberg, released a study that said its internationally based members have become the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. auto industry, creating 55,000 jobs.

Reps. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), John Hostettler (R-Ind.), Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) offered comments supporting the AIAM companies.

“Toyota has set the bar for what it means to be a good corporate citizen,” said Cuellar, who represents the San Antonio area where Toyota has a plant. “We want to be your friends in Congress … your champions, your ambassadors.”

The AIAM and its companies had plenty of lobbyists at the event, including AIAM President Timothy MacCarthy and Government Affairs Director Paul Ryan as well as Josephine Cooper, senior vice president of government affairs for Toyota’s Washington office. Cooper is the former head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

End of an Era. Jay Cutler, the longtime top lobbyist for the American Psychiatric Association, died earlier this month.

Cutler, who retired in 2003 after 25 years with the association, was credited by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) with helping shift national attitudes toward mental illness and substance abuse.

“Jay had a direct impact on virtually every major bill on health policy and mental illness and substance abuse treatment legislation over more than 30 years,” Kennedy said in a 2003 floor statement.

Julie Shroyer, now a lobbyist with Wheat Government Relations, said in her six years with the APA, Cutler taught her to be an effective advocate.

“He would fight with us when he thought we were wrong, but he would defend us to the end if we ever screwed up,” she said.

K Street Moves. Former Sens. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) are joining the law firm King and Spalding as co-chairmen of its government relations group.

Mack, who retired in 2001, will be pulling double duty as he co-chairs President Bush’s tax reform panel. Mack said he was attracted to King and Spalding for its health care and FDA regulatory practice.

Coats retired from the Senate in 1999 and this month finished a four-year post as ambassador to Germany. He said he was drawn to the law firm’s “international scope, especially its German practice.”

In other moves: Holland and Knight adds Steven Winnick, deputy general counsel for the Education Department, to its education policy practice. … The National Corn Growers Association has hired Fred Stemme, a veteran marketing director for the Missouri Corn Growers Association, as vice president of marketing. The association also adds June Silverberg, formerly director of corporate relations for the National Association of Wheat Growers, and Lisa Kelley, a staffer for the House Agriculture Committee, as directors of public policy. … Della Cronin, a program director for the Afterschool Alliance, joins Washington Partners as vice president of legislative and public affairs. Joan Coyle, already a consultant with the firm, was named vice president of public relations. … Mark Peterson, previously vice president of the Alpine Group, is now a lobbyist for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. … Nichole Francis joins Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz as an associate. She was previously an assistant national field director for the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).