Garden State Spin

Posted July 19, 2005 at 6:05pm

You know what they say: Any ink is good ink.

Well, that seems to be especially true in New Jersey.

On Sunday, The New York Times ran an 1,800-word story about the cozy relationship between Rep. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kay LiCausi, a former Menendez aide who is now a New Jersey-based lobbyist with a lucrative stable of clients.

By Monday, the woman’s lawyer told Roll Call that the story hasn’t hurt LiCausi at all. Actually, it’s helped her book of business.

[IMGCAP(1)]“She has received feedback from clients,” said Hoboken, N.J.-based lawyer Ed Florio. “They responded positively to the story.”

Florio declined to comment on the nature of his client’s relationship, past or present, with Menendez, who chairs the Democratic Caucus, making him the third ranking House Democrat. (The Times wrote that rumors are rife among elected officials and political consultants in Hudson County and former Menendez

aides that the two had a romantic affair. Menendez has not commented on that, either.)

The Times article said that Menendez has steered “more than $200,000 worth of political consulting and fundraising contracts her way” and that several “of her clients are businesses and organizations run by prominent supporters of Mr. Menendez.”

The story added: “But what has struck many seasoned politicians and consultants in New Jersey is the speed of Ms. LiCausi’s ascent and the scope of her work, even in the state’s forgiving political culture. She had little experience on Capitol Hill or in Trenton.”

LiCausi’s firm, KL Strategies, has registered to represent six clients this year at the federal level, mostly from New Jersey, including the Stevens Institute of Technology, Mills Corp. (which is building a major development in the Meadowlands), New Jersey Transit, Bergen Community College, St. Anthony High School and the Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises.

None of the clients contacted returned calls for comment.

Florio, the attorney, said he has represented LiCausi, who is 33, on a number of matters that he cannot disclose over the past years. In his view, he said, the Times story “probably will help” LiCausi’s lobbying career.

Send in the Troops. The pro-CAFTA corps may have some of the city’s best-connected lobbyists on its side. But as the House vote nears and the lobbying battle approaches its final days, anti-CAFTA troops are arriving from such far-flung locales as, well, Pennsylvania.

A group of roughly 70 Pennsylvanians organized by the Citizens Trade Campaign and Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch descended on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge their state’s Congressional delegation to say no to the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The roster included union members, environmentalists, church leaders and AIDS activists.

The volunteer advocates arrived by bus in the morning and suited up at the Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church in matching bright orange T-shirts (union made, of course) sporting a motto that made their mission clear: “Support Fair Trade: Stop CAFTA, son of NAFTA.”

Public Citizen and CTC workers coached platoons preparing to meet with Pennsylvania lawmakers, telling the group: “You just need to say, ‘It’s not true what the candy-makers are saying.’” Pennsylvania, of course, is home to Hershey Foods.

The organizers also briefed the lobbyists-for-a-day to make sure they had the Members talking, not just listening.

“You want to make sure that you are talking less than 50 percent of the time,” said one staffer. One woman was even deputized as the person in charge of interjecting questions if Members did too much listening.

These folks already knew the issues. Carl Dillinger of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO said he came to D.C. to make sure lawmakers knew that a bill that would allow U.S. companies to seek duties against some imports from China would not serve as a trade-off for a yes vote on CAFTA.

“Both of the bills are bogus,” he said before heading out to meet with GOP Reps. Todd Platts and Bill Shuster.

Greg Adams, who owns his own auto repair business in Collegeville, Pa., said that CAFTA wouldn’t directly impact his own job security. But he said that CAFTA, if passed, could cause his customers to take pay cuts or lose their jobs. And that could indirectly affect his own bottom line. He planned to meet with Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.).

“I want to see if a conservative legislator can act in the interest of his constituents in spite of the huge pressure from some pretty influential people. I’m going to ask him if he can do what he probably knows is the right thing to protect his constituents,” Adams said.

Drug Ads. Confusion over the Medicare prescription drug benefit has prompted a six-week, national television advertising campaign costing $5 million. The drug program will be rolled out this fall, and the ads will begin airing nationally this week.

“We all agree that the ultimate success of the program depends on seniors and people with disabilities understanding the choices available to them,” said Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, in a statement.

Footing the bill for the ads is the Medicare Rx Education Network, a group with 40-odd members chaired by former Sen. John Breaux (R-La.) and made up of insurers, drug stores and disease-management and business groups. Breaux is a lobbyist with the firm Patton Boggs.

According to polling by AHIP, a trade group and member of the network, there has been “a clear awareness gap” for those who will need to navigate the new drug program.

Breaux worked extensively on Medicare prescription drug legislation while in Congress.

Meet the New Boss. Three of Wal-Mart’s longtime outside lobbyists are feting the guy who took over the Washington, D.C., outpost for the nation’s largest retailer.

Recently, Wal-Mart tapped Lee Culpepper, the former top lobbyist at the National Restaurant Association, to lead its fast-growing lobby operation. So Jim Hirni of Cassidy and Associates, Aubrey Rothrock of Patton Boggs and Jarvis Stewart of Stewart Partners — who had a hand in selecting Culpepper — are hosting a reception tonight at Charlie Palmer Steak to welcome him.

K Street Moves. Joe Martyak, who has been interim vice president for marketing, communications and public policy at the American Legacy Foundation, will stay on with the organization in the same job permanently.

The former Van Scoyoc Associates vice president will continue to manage the organization’s media and lobbying efforts. Prior to working downtown, Martyak was the assistant administrator for public affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency and deputy undersecretary for the Interior Department.

Also: Gene Hickock, former deputy secretary of Education, is joining Dutko Worldwide as a senior policy director. Hickock served for six years as Pennsylvania’s education secretary under then-Gov. Tom Ridge (R) before joining the federal department in 2001. There, he helped craft and implement Bush’s No Child Left Behind reforms. … Health care giant Abbott is adding John Taylor to its lobbying team. Taylor comes to the company from the Food and Drug Administration, where he served most recently as associate commissioner.

Matthew Murray and Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.