One of Their Own

Posted July 22, 2005 at 5:34pm

The lobbying résumé of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts is longer than it initially seemed.

Even before he lobbied the Office of Management and Budget on behalf of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, Roberts worked on behalf of two clients in the peanut industry.

[IMGCAP(1)]In 1997, midway through his decade in private practice at the Washington law firm Hogan and Hartson, Roberts lobbied the House and the Justice and Agriculture Departments for the Western Peanut Growers Association and Panhandle Peanut Growers Association, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

For both clients, Roberts was pushing to preserve government subsidies. The work for each earned the firm no more than $20,000.

Hogan and Hartson did not return a call for comment, but in a statement on the firm’s Web site, Chairman J. Warren Gorrell called Roberts “one of the best and most distinguished lawyers in the country.”

“He is fair-minded and of unquestioned integrity,” Gorrell added.

Roberts’ work for a long list of corporate clients have laid to rest fears in the business community that President Bush’s nominee would fit the mold of Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, who, while friendly to socially conservative causes, have not been as solicitous to business interests.

The Old College Try. Students for Saving Social Security, a grass-roots student group pushing privatization of the federal retirement program, is claiming that it got shafted by the College Democrats.

The group was angling for space at the College Democrats’ national convention, held over the weekend. And in e-mail negotiations with convention chairman Brendan Martin, SSSS appeared to be getting somewhere.

In an e-mail earlier this month, Martin informed Shawn McCoy, outreach coordinator for SSSS, that he was having trouble lining up space, “but considering the nature of what you are doing I will try to find a way to involve you in some way,” Martin wrote.

In trying to secure space, McCoy, it seems, was touting his group’s ties to the left-leaning Rock the Vote. So Martin contacted Rock the Vote Political Director Hans Reimer for a reference on the group.

Reimer e-mailed McCoy directly.

“Brendan called me and asked for a reference since you had told him that SSSS has worked with rock the vote,” Reimer wrote. “I told him that SSSS is a worthy adversary in the social security debate on the side of privatization.”

In an interview, McCoy said he never tried to fake ties to Rock the Vote to seal a spot at the convention, and he pointed to the e-mail from Reimer as evidence of

the group’s undue influence over the College Democrats’ event.

“The thing we’re concerned with is Rock the Vote is out there trying to get youth involved and active, but they don’t want us participating,” McCoy said. “We should be working together on this to get youth involved, because this is such an important issue for our future.”

McCoy said he was unsure how Martin “somehow got the impression” that the group was claiming a relationship with Rock the Vote. At the very least, however, McCoy and Reimer have met and taken a photo together.

Earlier this month, at a weekend conference on Social Security issues, McCoy and SSSS member Chris Haworth approached Reimer and asked for a picture. Though Reimer had never met the two, he suspected something fishy and asked if the photo would end up on the group’s Web log.

Writing on the blog, McCoy confirmed the account, adding, “Assuming then our individual reputations preceded us, we did not expect him to allow us the opportunity of a picture, but he revealed his facetious comment when he asked ‘Are you guys involved in the Social Security debate?’”

“Yes Hans, we are!” McCoy continued. “And yes, we are going to put the picture on the SSSS blog!” And indeed, they did.

For the record, Democratic National Committee spokesman Josh Earnest said the group would have been welcome at the convention, but space ran out.

Earnest said even some groups sympathetic to the Democratic agenda, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, were squeezed out by space limitations.

Change of Address. Thane Young, who spent five years with the recently defunct Peyser Associates, has opted to set up his practice at Van Scoyoc Associates, rather than joining Blank Rome, the firm that Peyser merged into July 1.

“All of my clients are in the West, and I felt like this was a better fit for my clients,” said Young, a vice president at Van Scoyoc Associates, which is based in Washington. (Blank Rome’s roots are in Pennsylvania.)

Young brought with him such clients as the city of Stockton, Calif., the Orange County (Calif.) Fire Authority and water districts in the state.

Twenty-five years ago, Young got his start working on the Hill for Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). His boss there was Lee Rawls, now a lobbyist at Van Scoyoc too — though “I didn’t know he was here until I started,” Young said.

K Street Moves. Erin Strawn, who spent five years as an appropriations staff member for Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), has joined the Stanton Park Group.

Strawn, who also previously worked as the legislative director to Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), will focus on appropriations, health care, education and foreign relations at the firm, whose clients include AT&T, Nextel Communications, U.S. Oncology and VeriSign.

Her former boss Cunningham, who is the focus of a federal investigation, recently said he will not seek re-election next year.

Also: Democracy Data and Communications, a grass-roots and public affairs firm, has added Bill Blumenthal as managing director.

Blumenthal, a former senior business manager at Fannie Mae, previously served as director of government relations for the Duberstein Group. He is a former aide to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).