Packed House

Posted April 15, 2005 at 4:17pm

GOP lobbyists crammed into Room HC-5 of the Capitol last Thursday for a joint briefing by House and Senate leaders. The point: to show K Street that Senate and House Whips have coordinated their efforts — and that they continue to need lobbyists’ help if they are to pass major items on the business agenda, such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Participants also discussed legislative fallout if the Senate should “blow up” over judicial nominations. [IMGCAP(1)]

“It was an extremely worthwhile interaction with the leadership of both the House and Senate,” said Adam Falkoff, a vice president at the Gilman Group who attended the meeting.

Also reportedly at the closed-door meeting were Bruce Mehlman, a partner at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti; Williams and Jensen’s J. Steven Hart; Lisa Nelson, an in-house lobbyist with Visa USA; David Lugar of Quinn Gillespie and Associates; Dutko Worldwide’s Gary Andres; and Bob Okun of General Electric-owned NBC Universal.

According to one K Street attendee, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the audience: “Gathered in this room is where policy meets politics, where the rubber meets the road. Thank you to all of you for all that you’ve done to help us. We couldn’t have gotten this far without your assistance.”

One House leadership aide said the event drew 250 to 300 people. “The way these [House] leaders view the Senate is they are our best ally,” this aide said, adding that lobbyists are crucial to the effort because they “can influence Members in ways that we can’t, especially Democrats. They can have a local CEO call a Member, and can turn Members in ways we don’t have the ability to.”

Two Party Office. The newly established lobbying practice of Ruder Finn, a New York-based public relations firm, has just lured a second veteran of powerhouse law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs to its team.

Andy Rosenberg, who spent nearly eight years at the city’s largest lobbying shop, starts at Ruder Finn today as vice president for global government affairs. Ruder Finn’s lobbying practice head — and only other lobbyist, at least for now — is Ronald Christie, a White House official until last year who decamped from Patton Boggs last month.

Rosenberg, a former aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), is perhaps best known for his primary challenge last year to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). Playing off a series of PR stumbles and ethical issues surrounding Moran, Rosenberg portrayed himself as a fresh face untainted by controversy. But Moran pulled out a victory thanks to strong institutional support from local Democratic officials.

Christie, Ruder Finn’s executive VP and director of global government affairs as of April 4, said having Rosenberg on the team gives the two-person practice “the ability to reach policymakers on both sides of the aisle.”

“Patton Boggs is a great place,” Rosenberg said. “It gave me an education and was a great platform from which to learn the business of government affairs. … What led Ron and me both to pursue this opportunity was that we both shared this entrepreneurial bug. Patton Boggs is already the most established firm, so there’s not much to build.”

Christie said he and a team from Patton Boggs are working together on behalf of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

He has also signed up new clients, including the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a museum in Cincinnati. The museum is looking to keep its current government funding intact. Ruder Finn is also lobbying for pharmaceutical and health care clients.

Stuart Pape, Patton Boggs managing partner, said he doesn’t take “any larger inference from” losing two staffers to Ruder Finn’s new shop. “They have known each other for a long time.” Pape added that he was sad to see Rosenberg go.

Black, White, and Read All Over. While Washington waits with bated breath for the latest twitch in the unfolding scandal surrounding once high-flying lobbyist Jack Abramoff, nobody may be watching more closely than his former colleagues at the law and lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig.

Though the firm cut its ties to Abramoff more than a year ago, Greenberg Traurig staffers still regularly round up every press clipping that mentions the lobbyist and send the collected clips out to the Washington office.

In recent days, the clips — gathered from media outlets as far flung as the Web site of Middle East-based Al-Jazeera network and the liberal blog BuzzFlash — have multiplied, and they’re carrying more bad news.

The recent coverage has focused on Abramoff’s ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who’s been under fire recently for foreign trips he took that Abramoff appears to have helped sponsor.

Luckily for Greenberg Traurig, only two of the 22 Abramoff-related stories that ran over the weekend of April 9 also mentioned the firm.

Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman Jill Perry called the clip-collecting standard practice.

“It’s no different than anything we do for any clients on any other matters,” she said. “It’s just keeping people apprised of public information.”

No doubt she’ll read this report today, tucked into her latest stack of stories on Abramoff.

Client Development. The Nickles Group, founded earlier this year by recently retired Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), has added a fresh batch of clients to its workload.

They include such household names as General Electric, General Motors and the YMCA, as well as the American Hospital Association, Apria Healthcare, the National Marrow Donor Program and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Nickles did not return a call seeking comment.

In the meantime, another new firm in town, the tax-focused Angus and Nickerson, has also lured a handful of new clients.

Gregory Nickerson, formerly tax counsel on the Ways and Means Committee, and Barbara Angus, who served as international tax counsel at the Treasury Department, are lobbying for the Coca-Cola Co., the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, General Electric and Alpharma Inc., a drug company.

“We felt there was a need in the market for a firm with technical expertise and the political,” Nickerson said.

K Street Moves. Tim Hugo is stepping down as president of CapNet, a trade group for more than 40 technology companies. After six years at the group’s helm, Hugo is leaving to expand his firm, the Tim Hugo Group, and its links to the Livingston Group and the Madison Group. Jason Flanary, CapNet’s vice president, will serve as interim executive director.