Just When You Thought It Was Safe

Posted April 22, 2005 at 6:07pm

For those rank-and-file lobbyists who thought that ripples from the Jack Abramoff scandal would never reach them, two Democratic House Members are hoping to prove them wrong.

Prompted by the alleged abuses of the once high-flying lobbyist Abramoff, Reps. Marty Meehan (Mass.) and Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) are preparing to introduce a bill that would hike disclosure requirements for lobbyists, while also making Members more responsible for knowing who is paying for their trips. [IMGCAP(1)]

Spokesmen for the lawmakers said that their bill is still being drafted and that they’re searching for a Republican co-sponsor.

“Whatever legislation ultimately comes out, we want it to be bipartisan, reform-minded legislation,” said Meehan spokesman Matt Vogel.

The draft so far includes provisions that would double the one-year lobbying ban on former Members, double the fine on failing to file lobbying reports, require organizations that pay for Congressional travel to list all their funding sources, and require Members to know those sources before making trips.

The travel requirements address recent reports of trips taken by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that were allegedly funded in part by Abramoff, which would be a violation of House ethics rules.

Also targeted in the bill is the much-hyped effort to place Republicans in lobbying jobs around town. The proposed bill would prohibit Members and staff from legislating on the basis of a lobbyist’s political background or campaign contributions.

In October, just months after Hollywood hired a Democrat for the top job in its Washington office, Congressional Republicans cut $1 billion in tax credits for movie studios out of a tax bill. Critics immediately charged that the legislation was effectively retribution for the personnel move.

Nevertheless, a spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform — whose ongoing K Street Project seeks to place Republicans in lobbying jobs — said the bill provision would not impact their effort.

“We’re not affiliated with any effort in either house of Congress,” Chris Butler said.

Meanwhile, the American League of Lobbyists, a bipartisan group that serves as the lobbyists’ lobby, wants to work with Meehan and Emanuel on crafting any legislation, said the league’s president, Paul Miller.

“If they really want a good bill, they need to work with the lobbying community to get something that works for everybody,” he said.

He said his organization could support most of the draft provisions, with some tweaks — though he objected to the spirit of the bill.

“When things go wrong here in Washington, whether it be with Jack Abramoff or anyone else, all of a sudden we’re the ones to be blamed,” he said. “Let’s not lump everyone into that category. Members of Congress are to blame as well.”

So Far, Soda Good. PepsiCo has given its lobbying operation a jolt. Daniel Bryant, a former official at the Justice Department, recently began a new gig as the beverage and food company’s vice president of public policy and federal affairs.

“We’ve never had a vice president with public policy in their title,” said Bryant, a one-time chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and former assistant attorney general for legislative affairs and legal policy. “What that connotes is we really are going to be stepping up our commitment to engaging in public policy.”

Bryant, who will oversee federal lobbying activities, is also in charge of public policy around the globe. “The lion’s share of that is going to be dealing with the public health questions,” he said, adding that other issues on Pepsi’s plate include legal reform, tax and trade.

Pepsi’s brands include the Quaker Oats Co., Tropicana and Aquafina water.

Larry Thompson, another former Justice Department official and recent head of Pepsi’s government affairs operations, tapped Bryant.

“They really are looking to Larry to provide fresh leadership globally in terms of how we are working with governments everywhere,” Bryant said. “He brought me on board to bring a public policy vigor or energy that will also be globally focused, and one part will be stepping up our federal affairs.”

Bryant is based at Pepsi headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., but he plans to maintain his residence in Virginia and will make frequent business stops in Washington, D.C.

Galen Reser will continue to run the company’s D.C. office. “Galen is smart, hardworking, knows the industry, knows the issues and has forged tons of great working relationships through the years,” Bryant said. “Our capacity in Washington will be strengthened to enable us to be more proactive in the way we’re helping to contribute to public policy.”

Beefing Up. The lobbying practice at Greenberg Traurig has taken a beating since Jack Abramoff exited the firm with his troubled but lucrative portfolio. Last week, though, the firm was showing signs of renewed vigor.

It not only added a new staffer — Capitol Hill veteran and former DLA Piper Rudnick lobbyist James Hyland — but it also armed itself, in a manner of speaking.

The firm signed gunmaker Smith and Wesson to lobby on “issues related to the federal regulation of firearms,” according to Senate filings.

Swappers Beware. As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a decision in the Grokster file-sharing case, and as industry groups move to line up support in Congress for a pending debate on intellectual piracy and copyright reform, one K Street firm is expected to play a central role.

The American Continental Group just this year signed deals to represent Disney, Time Warner and the Motion Picture Association of America. The firm recently inked a contract with the National Music Publishers’ Association.

The fight for stronger copyright protections will mark a change of scene for the firm’s newest hire, Carl Thorsen, who joined the firm earlier this year after serving as general counsel to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

K Street Moves. Kellogg Brown and Root, the Halliburton subsidiary often criticized for the handling of its contracts in Iraq, has made two hires in its government and infrastructure division. William Bodie, former vice president of defense programs at DFI International, joins KBR as a vice president of communications, government and customer affairs. And retired Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Cosumano, a vice president of strategic planning at ATK Thiokol, joins the company as vice president of contingency and homeland operations. … The National Restaurant Association has tapped Donna Garren, a vice president at the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, to become the group’s vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs. … Tom Joseph has left the Washington office of Los Angeles County to join Waterman and Associates as a lobbyist.

In other moves: NBC Universal has added two lawyers to its team in Washington, D.C. David Green comes to the company from the Motion Picture Association of America, where he worked on copyright issues, and prior to that, he spent 16 years at the Justice Department. Also joining is Alec French, who most recently served as the minority counsel on the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts, the Internet and intellectual property.

Also: Timothy Trysla, a senior policy adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is joining the law and lobbying firm Alston and Bird. … Dean Meinen, former economic development director for Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), is joining the government relations firm SMI Inc. and will focus on science and technology issues.