The Force Is With Them

Posted May 13, 2005 at 4:48pm

After it collects a mint at its box office opening this week, the latest “Star Wars” movie will be helping some Republicans in Congress collect some cash of their own. [IMGCAP(1)]

The premiere of “Revenge of the Sith” — the last in George Lucas’ universally adored series — is inspiring a rash of Republican fundraisers.

Reps. Chris Chocola (Ind.), Rob Simmons (Conn.) and John Shimkus (Ill.) kick off the sci-fi mania May 20, a day after the movie hits screens nationwide.

For a donation of $250 to one of their campaigns, donors can enjoy a reception at Don Pablo’s restaurant in Alexandria before heading next door to the Regal 16 Potomac Yard Theaters for a “private premiere screening.”

Three days later, anyone generous enough to contribute $1,000 to the PAC of Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) gets four tickets to a reception at — you guessed it — Don Pablo’s and an “exclusive screening” at the same theater next door.

“Pete has clearly been a pioneer with this event and has been hugely successful,” said Monica Notzon, whose firm, The Bellwether Group, is organizing his event.

She said Sessions has done four movie events over the years and has long been a “Star Wars” enthusiast.

“Others have noticed,” she said.

David Bowser, whose Keelen Communications is organizing the first event, said he was unaware that Sessions had the same event planned for just days later.

“We’ve been talking about this idea for a while,” he said, “and we just thought this was an opportune time.”

For those without a movie ticket, Rep. John Doolittle (Calif.) is hosting a private screening May 23. Admission is $49.99 to that event, at the Regal Gallery Place on Seventh Street Northwest.

Party Like It’s 1975. Gerald Cassidy started his lobbying empire on May 17, 1975, with a basement office in his Springfield, Va., home and another subterranean outpost on Capitol Hill. “My wife was my assistant,” he recalled.

Thirty years later to the day, Cassidy and Associates — which now has 110 employees and brought in more than $30 million in revenue last year — is taking over the rooftop terrace of 101 Constitution Ave. NW, with sweeping views of the Capitol and downtown D.C., for an invite-only bash to celebrate the business’s birthday.

Among the 600-plus revelers on the guest list for the party is former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), the man Cassidy said is responsible for bringing him to Washington.

Cassidy, a giant in political and lobbying circles, pioneered appropriations advocacy at his firm. Legend has it that he was the first lobbyist ever to garner an earmark for a paying client.

“I can’t guarantee that’s true,” Cassidy said. “It’s the first one I know about.”

That earmark came in 1977, for the Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University, which received funding for a building in the Agriculture spending bill.

Cassidy’s earliest clients included the National Cattlemen’s Association, Kellogg’s and General Mills. His longest running client is Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., which has remained in the fold for 29 years. “They’re a favorite of mine,” Cassidy said.

A lot has changed in 30 years, and the competition in the lobby biz is more intense than ever.

“As appropriations became a more and more fertile area, a lot of people copied our practice,” he said.

To keep up with the competition, Cassidy began diversifying into such areas as government marketing, tax and telecommunications policy a few years ago, following the firm’s sale to the Interpublic Group of Cos. in 1999.

In the years after that sale, Cassidy’s firm suffered a spate of defections, including the firm’s longtime No. 2 James Fabiani, who started his own firm.

Cassidy said the key hire he made recently was Gregg Hartley, the former chief of staff to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Hartley joined the firm two years ago. “His mission was to speed up this change, and he’s done that very effectively,” the boss said.

Future areas of growth for the firm, Cassidy said, include energy and natural resources.

Cassidy, now 65, said he has no plans to retire or disengage from the firm he built. “Over the last several years, Bob Strauss” — the similarly legendary lawyer who built Akin Gump Strauss Hauer Feld into a lobbying powerhouse — “has become my idol. He’s in his mid-80s and still goes to the office every day.”

Foreign Agent Files. Peter Mirijanian, who has recently served as a spokesman for embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has signed on to do public relations for the war-torn West African country Côte D’Ivoire.

Mirijanian, a fixture on cable news, said his client is so new that he’s unsure how long the work will last or what it will involve.

The country has been roiled by civil war since September 2002, after a failed attempt to oust its president. Mirijanian is subcontracting from the firm Quinn Gillespie and Associates, which recently signed a deal to represent the country for more than $1 million a year.

Mirijanian himself will earn $5,000 a month for the work, according to documents filed with the Justice Department’s Foreign Registration Unit.

K Street Moves. Anthony Bedell, a former associate administrator for Congressional and legislative affairs at the U.S. Small Business Association, has joined the lobby shop of Intuit Inc. Bedell’s government service also included a stint at Labor as a senior legislative officer and six years in the Air Force.

“Anthony has an insider’s knowledge of SBA and the hurdles small businesses have to jump when working to get help from the federal government,” said Bernie McKay, Intuit’s VP of corporate affairs.

Also: DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary has added two senior advisers to its government affairs practice: Michael Haltzel, a former foreign policy adviser to Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), and Mark Murray, a longtime House Appropriations Committee staffer. …

As the Base Realignment and Closure Commission gets going this week with hearings on Capitol Hill, the panel has enlisted James Schaefer to be its director of communications. Robert McCreary will be his deputy.