Hot War

Posted July 15, 2005 at 3:48pm

The simmering fight between the China National Off-Shore Oil Corp. and Chevron Corp. over who gets to buy the California-based oil company Unocal looks increasingly like an arms race to find the most well-connected lobbying talent.

The latest round goes to CNOOC, which broadened its reach by hiring the lobbying firm BKSH, headed by longtime Bush family confidante Charlie Black.

The hire comes as Congressional opposition to CNOOC’s bid mounts, with several leading Republican lawmakers citing concerns over national security and strategic energy policy in seeking to block the deal.

[IMGCAP(1)]Indeed, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) last week lashed out against another firm hired by CNOOC — the law and lobbying shop Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld — simply for taking the state-owned company on as a client.

Black said he was unworried by the possibility of similar reprisals.

“Its been the policy of the U.S. government, of Congress and the executive branch, really going back to the Reagan years, that we encourage trade and economic relations and investment with China,” Black said. “We have disconnected economic and trade issues from human rights and national security issues. In that context, I’m happy to work for this client.”

He declined to discuss the exact nature of his work.

The BKSH folks join a team that also includes Public Strategies, the public relations firm that’s home to Mark McKinnon, who ran Bush’s media campaign for the 2004 election.

The Chevron team, meanwhile, includes Wayne Berman and Drew Maloney of the Federalist Group. Berman is a top Bush fundraiser whose wife serves as White House social secretary, while Maloney is a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

No More Trips? The Senate last week lurched into the debate over lobbying and ethics reforms as Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) introduced his version of what the laws on lobbying should look like.

To put it succinctly, lobbyists probably won’t like Feingold’s vision.

Billed as a way to boost the lobbying disclosure act and rules that govern privately funded travel, the Feingold bill (sans co-sponsors, at least for now) calls for quarterly reporting, with more detail, including listing Members a lobbyist has had an oral communication with and how much money registered lobbyists spend on grassroots operations.

Feingold’s bill would also restrict any lobbyist from attending a privately funded trip and would tighten gift rules. It would also set the fair market cost of riding in a corporate jet at the same rate of hiring a charter plane — not the current rate, which is the cost of a first-class commercial airline ticket.

Feingold’s proposals are similar to a bill sponsored in the House by Reps. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). Like the Meehan-Emanuel legislation, Feingold’s measure would extend the Member and Congressional staffer lobbying “cooling off” period from one year to two years.

But Feingold’s legislation would also prevent former Members of Congress from even advising behind-the-scenes on policy matters — something that is currently a mainstay of former Members’ work at lobbying and law firms during their cooling off time. It would also bar any former staffer from lobbying the house of Congress for which he or she was a member.

Feingold said in a statement that, “for too long, lobbyists and special interests have had too much power in Washington, and much of that power is hidden from public view. … With reports of members of Congress taking corporate jets with lobbyists on board to fly to fundraisers and going on lobbyist-funded golf junkets, it is clear that more work needs to be done.”

Paul Miller, president of the American League of Lobbyists, said he would urge Congress “before you pass anything, let’s find out what the problem is and not have a knee-jerk reaction like I think all these bills are.”

Miller added that it’s not fair for lobbyists to accept all the blame for Members’ of Congress who have run afoul of ethics rules. “It’s got to be a two-way street,” said Miller, who added that Feingold’s office has not returned his group’s calls to talk about lobbying reforms.

Dr. Lobbyist. AdvaMed, the trade association that represents manufacturers of health care technology products, has a new president.

Steve Ubl, formerly outside consultant to the group as head of Ubl Health Solutions, starts his new job today. The move marks a return for Ubl, who served as a top lobbyist for association from 1998 until late last year, when he ventured out on his own.

He succeeds Pam Bailey, who now heads the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association.

K Street Moves. Stewart Baker, who heads the e-commerce and Internet practice at Steptoe and Johnson, is President Bush’s next choice to serve as assistant secretary for policy of the revamping Homeland Security Department.

At the law firm, Baker handles issues that deal with national security and data security. Baker, according to a spokeswoman for the firm, cannot comment because he is awaiting confirmation.

Also, Catherine Novelli, an assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Mediterranean, has joined the Washington office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw. Novelli’s work at USTR including coordinating U.S. trade and investment policy for more than 65 countries in Europe, Russia, Northern Africa and the Middle East. … Steve Irizarry is leaving his post as senior health counsel to Senate Aging Committee Chairman Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) to become a lobbyist for ML Strategies. He will head up the shop’s health care practice.