Labor’s Den

Posted March 2, 2007 at 6:14pm

Not only did labor union leaders rack up a big victory last week when the House passed one of their favored legislative gems, but they also scored something of a behind-the-scenes coup. [IMGCAP(1)]

Instead of prowling around the Capitol’s marble hallways, the labor lobbyists got to set up shop in an office in the Capitol suite of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) as they watched Thursday’s debate and vote on the Employee Free Choice Act, labor officials said.

The outpost in Clyburn’s suite included somewhere between 15 and 20 union types, according to sources who were in the room but preferred to remain publicly tight-lipped about their one-day digs.

The labor luminaries there included AFL-CIO President John Sweeney; Alan Reuther, legislative director for the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agriculture Implement Workers of America; and AFL-CIO legislative director Bill Samuel, according to sources.

“They made available some phones and a TV so we could follow the debate,” said one labor lobbyist. “It was nice of them to make it available, so we could stay out of the cold. It was a change” from the GOP days.

This labor source added that the group also included a steel worker from Colorado and a ballet dancer who is trying to form a union. “People were serious and paying attention to the debate and waiting to see how it was going to end. People were very pleased with the outcome, but there was no whooping and hollering,” the lobbyist said.

It was “an honor to have them in the Capitol” as they helped to pass a bill that will help working Americans, said Clyburn spokeswoman Kristie Greco.

Give Me An “L.” The K Street Project is so passé.

The moniker given to the once-formidable Republican machine working to install only loyal GOPers in the city’s lobbying jobs isn’t just out of fashion because Democrats rule the roost.

It also could get supplanted by another letter.

Lobbyists of the Republican variety have latched onto the departure of John Feehery, a former advocate and spinmeister for the Motion Picture Association of America who recently left to open his own business, as evidence of a new Democratic trend. Looking to eschew the term “reverse K Street Project,” they’ve given it a name all its own: The L Street Project.

L is for lobbyists? Or the next street over from the K Street power corridor?

One well-placed source said, “It’s for liberal.”

Feehery himself had no comment on the new term or its etymology. He said only, “I’m really happy to be starting my own firm.”

In-House Representation. A group calling itself the Global Court for Human Rights recently registered with the Senate to advocate on social justice issues with some pretty lofty-sounding lobbyists in its corner.

Among those listed to do work on its behalf were High Justice Gwilym Gruffudd and Associate Justice Mark Saxe.

Say what?

Saxe, who also is a partner in the firm Bradford Griffith & Saxe, explains that there are no real judges in the court, which serves as a “think tank” and conducts mock trials in judges’ robes.

The group sent letters last week to every Member calling on Congress to pressure President Bush to issue “an immediate and unconditional pardon” to two U.S. Border Patrol agents — Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean — who it feels were unfairly imprisoned. Saxe and his lobbying firm partner, Will Griffith, also have contacted the Indonesian embassy and offered to trade places with Schapelle Corby, an Australian women serving a 20-year sentence in an Indonesian prison for drug smuggling.

Notably, the Global Court has the same address in Kents Store, Va., as Bradford Griffith & Saxe. Saxe said that while the court is the “brainchild” of the firm, it is “detached” from it.

Two other clients of Bradford Griffith & Saxe — the Transgender Human Rights Council and the Coalition for Homeland Security — also share the same address. Saxe admits that although all are independent entities, these clients consist of friends or members of the firm, which is located in Griffith’s house.

“These are all issues we have worked on for years,” Saxe said. “We place people on these committees and the firm does … the legwork as far as the lobbying is concerned.”

Among the firm’s other interests is the Welsh independence movement. Saxe and Griffith, who is listed on the Global Court registration as Gwilym Gruffudd, the Welsh version of his name, are both first-generation Welsh Americans. In January, the firm signed on to represent The Kingdom of Gwynedd, a civic group that favors bringing “freedom to the Welsh people through peace and culture,” according to the Senate lobbying registration. H.M. Queen Willow ferch Gruffudd, a cousin of Griffith’s, was listed as a consultant on that filing.

Saxe said the firm formed late last year believing that “every voice should have access to their government” and that lobbying “had gotten a bad name.”

“K Street is not our friend,” he said.

K Street Moves. J.P. Moery, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s federation relations unit, is moving to SmartBrief, where he will be executive vice president of association relations. SmartBrief publishes e-mail newsletters for associations, and Moery will be on the lookout for possible new clients and will work with existing association clients. “I was a customer first,” he said. “I realized they’re on to something. Business is booming.”

• Omar Franco, formerly chief of staff to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), has joined Petrizzo Strategic Group as a principal.

• Kate Prible is joining the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America as its director of federal government affairs. Prible was a top lobbyist for the Credit Union National Association, and prior to that she logged time on the Hill with two Democratic House members.

• Semiconductor company Micron Technology has opened an outpost in Washington, D.C., and has tapped Melika Carroll, formerly with Intel Corp., as director of federal government affairs.

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.