Healthy Growth

Posted September 6, 2005 at 4:03pm

Adding a major health care player to its expanding lobbying portfolio, the firm Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti has hired Dean Rosen, the top medical policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

Rosen will start Sept. 16, giving the firm a chance to branch into health care issues and tighten its already close ties to the Senate leader and potential 2008 presidential contender. [IMGCAP(1)]

In the late 1990s Rosen served as majority counsel for Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), who at the time chaired the Ways and Means subcommittee on health. Thomas is in the final years of his chairmanship of the full panel.

Between his stint with Thomas and Frist, Rosen served as senior vice president of policy for the Health Insurance Association of America.

The firm, with roughly 30 clients and growing, is still in its infancy. Republicans Alex Vogel, who formerly served with Rosen in the Majority Leader’s office, and Bruce Mehlman launched it together in May 2004 and were joined by David Castagnetti, a top adviser to the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), in December.

Mehlman, who served in the Commerce Department in the first term of the Bush administration, is the brother of Ken Mehlman, current chairman of the Republican National Committee and head of Bush-Cheney 2004.

Vogel has been with Frist since the Senator chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2001 and 2002, serving as the committee’s counsel. He took the same title when Frist took over as Majority Leader, and even after leaving the official payroll 16 months ago Vogel remains a top outside political adviser to Frist’s Volunteer PAC. (His wife, Jill Holtzman Vogel, is a legal adviser to VolPAC.)

“Dean brings unbeatable knowledge of the health care sector, together with a great reputation on the Hill and beyond,” Vogel said.

“We were attracted by Dean’s integrity, experience and effectiveness,” Mehlman added. “We have great confidence in his ability to build a premier health care practice, leveraging MVC’s capabilities to provide the best possible representation to our clients.”

Bragging Rights. Now that the Base Realignment and Closure Commission has wrapped up its recommendations, lobbyists who successfully saved bases can do a victory lap. And no one seems more eager to do that than Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which brags that its clients scored 100 percent success.

Former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), a lobbyist with Akin Gump, said the firm shared BRAC clients with defense firm Hyjek & Fix.

“It was a grand slam home run,” Paxon said. His clients included the state of New York, whose Air National Guard base in Rome ended up netting more jobs. “The governor and Congressional delegation worked extraordinarily well on that.”

Paxon said the lobbyists’ job was to “put together all the support efforts and lay out a game plan” that included intelligence gathering, grass-roots advocacy and direct lobbying of the commission.

Another Akin Gump lobbyist, John Simmons, said other happy clients include the state of Kansas and three entities in Maryland: the Indian Head Defense Alliance, the Pax River Alliance and the Aberdeen Proving Group.

The community near Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M., brought in the firm after it landed on the Pentagon’s closure list this spring. Cannon will remain open at least until 2009, and may survive longer if the military decides to locate a new mission there. “That was our hardest, our toughest battle,” Simmons said.

Most of Akin Gump’s clients paid a flat retainer from $35,000 to $50,000 a month.

Lucrative Firm. Greenberg Traurig, the former law and lobbying firm of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has reached a settlement with one of its American Indian tribal clients.

According to accounts in the lobbying newsletter Influence and other publications, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan agreed to collect $10 million from Greenberg Traurig.

Roll Call reported in April that the firm and tribe were in negotiations and would likely settle for at least $9 million. Part of that settlement, Roll Call reported, would give Greenberg the rights to represent the tribe in any actions against Abramoff.

Saginaw Subchief Bernie Sprague did not return a call for comment, and a Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman did not have a comment.

Foreign Agent Files. The law and lobbying firm Venable has registered to represent the Republic of the Philippines, according to filings with the Justice Department. The firm’s lobbyists will help the country arrange meetings with Members of Congress, White House officials and other executive branch officials for a monthly retainer of $75,000 plus expenses.

The lead partners on the account are James Pitts, former staff member on the House Commerce Committee in the 1980s, and James George Jatras, former foreign policy expert for the Senate’s Republican Policy Committee.

The contract that was filed with Justice also said that Venable will work to “secure grants or Congressional earmarks for support of the Charter Change initiative of the President of the Philippines, which would reshape the form of government in the Philippines … into a parliamentary federal system.”

According to the contract, Venable also will focus on improving the investment ratings of the Philippine government by U.S. entities.

K Street Moves. The summer of new hires continues at American Defense International, which, as its name suggests, specializes in defense lobbying.

In the firm’s third recent hire, Sissy Pressnell, former senior aide to Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), joined ADI as vice president for government affairs last month.

Pressnell also served as director of issues management for the Tobacco Institute, a now-defunct public relations and lobbying outfit for the tobacco industry.

Part of Pressnell’s job was to coordinate grass-roots efforts in support of tobacco industry positions. She later lobbied in-house at Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. …

Also: Chris Swonger, most recently the senior vice president of corporate affairs for the spirits giant Allied Domecq, has left to join another firm in the industry, Jim Beam Brands Worldwide.

Swonger will represent the company’s global interests on all public policy and industry trade relations matters and will direct trade and government relations programs. …

Other Moves: Melissa Bonicelli, one-time legislative director to former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-Texas), has joined Venn Strategies as an assistant vice president. When she was on the Hill, Bonicelli developed and coordinated tax policy with the committee staff and the business community. At Venn, she will focus on tax clients including Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the Charitable Accord. … FasterCures: The Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions has added Catherine Berger as vice president of communications. Berger formerly worked as a producer in CNN’s White House unit. … Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates is adding Chad Wolf, currently the Transportation Security Administration’s assistant administrator for policy, as a senior director early next month. He will focus on homeland security and defense issues.