With Friends Like These

Posted May 20, 2005 at 6:10pm

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has extended an olive branch, albeit a thorny one, to the House Government Reform Committee to settle the turf war between the panels over their parallel looks into steroids in sports. [IMGCAP(1)]

In a Thursday letter to Melissa Wojciak, staff director of Government Reform, Larry Neal, deputy staff director of Energy and Commerce, makes an offer that Government Reform can probably refuse.

After reasserting Energy and Commerce has jurisdiction over the matter, Neal writes he is “happy to report our hearings, which began in early March and continue today, have generated a wealth of knowledge.” Early March, as in, one week before Government Reform held their first hearing.

“Meanwhile,” Neal continues, “the players called before Government Reform certainly have had newsworthy stories to tell, and we recognize that Chairman [Tom] Davis [R-Va.] and his committee may hold information that could prove useful in our legislative work.”

In other words: Nice work grabbing headlines. Now could we peek at your notes?

But Neal’s letter isn’t without an expression of sympathy, of sorts. “I think it is unfair that so many in the news media characterized Government Reform’s efforts as simple publicity seeking, but what can you do?” he writes.

David Marin, a spokesman for Government Reform, said Friday his committee had not yet received the letter.

“The fact that it went to media before us says it all,” he said.

A spokesman for Energy and Commerce said the letter speaks for itself.

Hello, Goodbye. The most unlikely loser in the latest round of military base closings is … pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Anthony Principi, the secretary of Veterans Affairs during President Bush’s first term, had only been serving as the company’s top man in Washington for two months when he resigned last week to focus on his work as chairman of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

A Pfizer spokeswoman confirmed that the company is resuming its search for a vice president of government relations “given its critical role in our company.”

Leslie Hortum, the Spencer Stuart headhunter who picked Principi, said she would be conducting the search for his replacement, charging Pfizer only for expenses.

“We are looking at options,” she said, declining to comment further.

Even among drugmakers, Pfizer is unusually politically active: Its CEO, Hank

McKinnell, chairs the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group of Fortune 200 CEOs that works to advance a pro-business agenda.

Location, Location, Location. Until last week, most of the strategy meetings in support of the Central American Free Trade Agreement were held either downtown or on Capitol Hill.

But last week, about 15 business lobbyists made their way to the White House for a session in which President Bush and his top advisers such as Karl Rove appeared.

Newly minted U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez honchoed the effort.

One source who attended the Roosevelt Room meeting said the confab included representatives from the high tech, food and agriculture and entertainment sectors and from the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The president and his team, this source said, told attendees that CAFTA “is about national security and helping these fledgling democracies.”

The source added, “In the last three weeks, there’s been a clear sea change on the dynamics of this, where clearly the administration and the White House are putting their full energy behind this and winning.”

But Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the anti-CAFTA U.S. Business and Industry Council, said, “It’s nice that they’re whipping up their own enthusiasm talking among themselves. But I see no real-world effects. I haven’t seen a single announcement of a switcher.”

He added, “I see no signs of sustained high-level White House involvement.”

K Street Moves. Melissa Skolfield, most recently communications counsel to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is joining the Brookings Institution as vice president and director of communications. … Greg Campbell has left Thomas Walters and Associates, where he had been a legislative representative, to join the Washington office of Los Angeles County. … Ben McMakin, a former legislative director to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), has joined the lobbying and law firm Van Ness Feldman as senior director of governmental issues. McMakin also served as legislative director to then-Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), where he handled issues related to the 1996 Telecommunications Act.