Borderline Support

Posted September 30, 2005 at 6:40pm

If President Bush is going to have greater success addressing immigration policy than he did overhauling Social Security, he’s going to have to get more specific, according to business interests.

So far, corporate lobbyists being courted by the White House for assistance in its drive to retool the nation’s immigration laws are keeping their distance, pending more concrete details of the administration’s plan. [IMGCAP(1)]

“Business is still cautious about what they’ll be advocating,” said John Gay, who co-chairs a business group promoting reform called the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition. “I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Added Angelo Amador, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “This is a very important issue for the business community, and it’s important for us that everybody gets it right, as opposed to just doing something. We want to make sure we don’t start compromising, before the game even starts.”

A sticking point for business interests is whether undocumented workers already here are required to return to their native countries before applying to return legally. Business lobbyists argue that would create a costly and needless disruption in the labor market. Anti-immigration advocates argue that anything less would amount to amnesty for people who broke the law to get here.

Competing Senate bills take opposite approaches on the issue, and while the White House has been meeting quietly with lawmakers from both Houses in the past few weeks, they have yet to get behind either measure.

The White House this summer tapped Ed Gillespie and Terry Holt, of the lobbying firm Quinn Gillespie Associates, to pull together a business-backed coalition called Americans for Border and Economic Security, to fund the media and lobbying campaign behind the reform drive.

Membership reportedly costs $50,000 to $250,000, and so far, business lobbyists said, sign-ups have been lagging.

Holt said with most in Congress focused on hurricane relief and other measures, the coalition is still in an organizational phase.

“We’re focusing on filling out our board and working toward the budget we’ll need when this issue becomes public,” he said.

Holt declined to discuss current membership, or how much the group has raised, but noted organizers are “encouraged by the feedback we’re getting from all quarters.”

And, he said, the coalition won’t necessarily be marching in lockstep with the administration.

“We want to support the White House to reform immigration law in this country,” he said. “And we will assert our members’ interests in policies that promote common sense immigration reform.”

Missouri Marriage. Davidson & Co., a longtime D.C.-based lobbying shop that specializes in representing media companies on Capitol Hill, merged last week with a Kansas City, Mo., law firm called Polsinelli Shalton Welte & Suelthaus. If that doesn’t roll off your tongue, the moniker for Davidson’s new firm is Davidson & Co. of Polsinelli.

“This is more a merger of equals in the sense that I’m becoming a principal in their firm,” said founder Jim Davidson, who went to law school at the University of Missouri with fellow partner Ken Suelthaus. “Ken merged his firm with the Polsinelli firm. They said we’d really like to open a Washington office. And he said, ‘You’ve got to call Jim.’”

Davidson said they ran checks on any potential client conflicts and didn’t find any, so they went forward with the union.

On the litigation side, Bill Blakely and Carol Guy Jackson have joined the firm from DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary.

Davidson said he plans to expand the office and added that that having the backing of a law firm will lend “more resources to make new hires.”

“I couldn’t be more excited about it,” Davidson said. “I’m merging with a lot of friends and colleagues from Missouri I’ve known for many many years.”

Capitol Inoculation. Emergent BioSolutions, the company best known in Washington, D.C., for making an anthrax vaccine that some Congressional staffers took in 2001, has created a new position for an in-house lobbyist.

Allen Shofe, most recently a lobbyist with Eli Lilly and Co., is settling into the role of vice president of government affairs at the federal, state and international level.

Shofe, who got his start in Minnesota politics, served as chief of staff to Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) and previously served as a vice president at the now-defunct Tobacco Institute.

In a recent interview, Shofe said he will focus on legislative issues that concern vaccine litigation and the second round of BioShield legislation as well as other biodefense, procurement and appropriations matters. At Eli Lilly, Shofe’s legislative portfolio included vaccine litigation, intellectual property and Medicare. Shofe said he doesn’t have immediate plans to beef up the in-house lobby roster.

“Right now we have a number of capable outside consultants,” Shofe said, including Cassidy & Associate’s Todd Boulanger.

The Oversized Plate Lobby. The Cheesecake Factory, the restaurant chain known for its gargantuan portions, has farmed out a piece of its advocacy work to the Washington, D.C., office of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, a North Carolina law firm.

The California-based eatery wanted extra help in winning approval and economic development incentives (read: tax breaks) for a new industrial bakery in North Carolina.

“We have been working with the state of North Carolina, local officials and the North Carolina delegation” here in Washington, D.C., said Robert Cohen, the account’s lead lobbyist.

Cohen added that the company also has ongoing federal legislative issues.

Other lobbyists working the matter are Jimmy Broughton, former chief of staff to then-Rep. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), and Jeffrey Lane, who served as chief of staff to then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

K Street Moves. Kevin O’Scannlain, formerly senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, has joined the government affairs practice at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. In the Senate, O’Scannlain worked on intellectual property, asbestos litigation, bio-defense and Internet tax issues.

Lamar Whitman, most recently with the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, has joined the computer industry trade group CompTIA as public policy manager. At CompTIA, Whitman will monitor the effect of U.S. tax and other policies on small-to-medium-size businesses.

Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith is now of counsel to the firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. Smith will focus on government relations and lobbying, and also teach at the Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.