Ring Leader

Posted June 28, 2005 at 6:35pm

Kevin Ring, one-time colleague of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has resigned from representing Arizona’s Hopi Tribe of Kykotsmovi, after working with the client since July 2001. [IMGCAP(1)]

Last week, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), called Ring to testify about his work for other tribal clients he worked on with Abramoff when the embattled lobbyist was with the firm Greenberg Traurig. Abramoff is under investigation by the Senate and federal agencies.

Ring did not answer questions at the hearing, invoking his rights under the Fifth Amendment. He also would not comment on the Hopi client to Roll Call or The Arizona Republic, which first reported his resignation from the client.

Ring continues to represent the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which was the primary focus of the Senate hearing last week.

The Hopi tribe, which unlike most of the one-time Abramoff clients does not engage in gaming, paid Ring, who was at Greenberg Traurig at the time, an average of $20,000 a month. Ring now works at Barnes and Thornburg.

A Hopi spokesman did not return a call seeking comment about what, if any, lobbyist would take over from Ring.

Star Lobbyist. Christopher Ott, a lobbyist at Kilpatrick Stockton, has taken up the cause of a Mississippi children’s home. And as part of his pro bono work, he is helping to foster meetings between

Members and actress Sela Ward, who helped start Hope Village, a home for children in Ward’s hometown of Meridian, Miss.

The group home, Ott said, provides care, education and counseling for children, many of them black, who slip through the cracks of the foster care system because of their age or their special needs.

Ott said Ward’s July 25 and 26 schedule includes meetings with Mississippi Sens. Trent Lott (R) and Thad Cochran (R), two Members who have expressed their support of the home in the past.

The actress-lobbyist also plans to meet with senior officials at the Health and Human Services Department, focusing particularly on Medicaid and Social Security reimbursement issues.

Ott said Ward’s schedule is still in the works, but she also plans to meet with members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation.

“The purpose of this is to raise awareness on Capitol Hill and to address some immediate issues with HHS,” said Ott, a longtime friend and business associate of Ward’s husband, Howard Sherman.

Hope Village’s next step could be to find federal funding.

Untimely Passing. Longtime lobbyist Frank Godfrey, a one-time aide to the late Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), died last week of a heart attack. He was 51.

Godfrey is remembered by friends and colleagues as a fiercely loyal ally and gentle soul — qualities they say rubbed off from his old boss.

“He was kind of the same spirit as Tip O’Neill — he was a guy who cared about people,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who got to know Godfrey when the two were House staffers in the early 1980s. “He really loved and respected the House, and like Tip O’Neill, he was a man of the House. He knew everybody, and everybody knew and liked him.”

Godfrey spent about a decade working for O’Neill, focusing on federal projects in the Speaker’s home state, according to his longtime friend and business partner, Vince Versage.

He translated the appropriations expertise he developed on Capitol Hill into a career securing federal help for universities. He spent nearly 20 years at Cassidy and Associates, before leaving in 2002 to join Versage as a partner at the National Group.

In a eulogy delivered Monday to an overflow crowd at St. Paul’s Church in Alexandria, Va., Versage remembered Godfrey as a man who “just loved everybody, even those he shouldn’t have.”

“He touched everybody’s hearts,” Versage added in an interview. “Everybody knew he was honest as the day was long.”

The family has asked contributions in Godfrey’s memory be directed to the Woodlawn Plantation.

Beach School’s Beachhead. The University of Southern California has joined the growing ranks of colleges with an office in Washington, D.C., opening a federal relations office in the city earlier this spring.

The school hopes to use the office to promote the work of its faculty among Members of Congress and lobby for greater research funds and grants, said Jennifer Grodsky, who left the office of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) to head the effort.

“A lot of people outside of California know us for our football team, which we’re proud of,” she said. “But we want to add to that.”

Joining Grodsky in the office is a fellow USC alumna, Ann Lee. A veteran of ABC News, Lee will serve as communications director.

For Family and Flag. The American Family Association, a leading conservative Christian organization, has launched a Web-based campaign to secure 1 million signatures in support of a constitutional amendment that would make it illegal to burn the U.S. flag.

“There are some things that ought to be sacred, and the U.S. flag is one of them,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “We should protect and honor it.”

The amendment passed the House June 23, by a 286-130 vote. The amendment now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation has died in the past.

Wildmon said he hopes the online petition will energize the Senate to pass the amendment by reminding Republican lawmakers that the AFA’s 2.6 million supporters are expecting tangible results from the recent Republican gains in Congressional elections.

“They’re good campaign promises, but we would like to see this become law,” Wildmon said.

Luke Mullins contributed to this report.