Tipping Their Hand

Posted March 13, 2007 at 6:40pm

While at the moment net neutrality may seem more passé than calling the Internet a “series of tubes,” activists who spun the issue into a political firestorm last year are hustling to keep it on the Congressional radar. And say what you will about the net-roots crowd that makes up SavetheInternet.org, the grass-roots organization is not shy about tipping its hand as it steps up lobbying efforts on the issue. [IMGCAP(1)]

In a recent blog post, the group details results of a campaign to stage district meetings with 20 Members of Congress in as many days. Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M) heard from Gary Maricle, who owns a score of Web sites that sell New Mexico chiles. David Kaufer, founder of GreenforGood.com, urged Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) “to be a strong and vocal leader.” Some freshmen got an introductory seminar on the topic, including Rep. David Davis (R-Tenn.), according to Morristown, Tenn., small-business owner Carolyn Rice Dean, who said the lawmaker “seemed genuinely interested.”

The blog post has been making the rounds in telecom circles. Lobbyists for phone and cable companies, lined up against a net neutrality law, pooh-pooh the notion it could gain traction this year — but they are nonetheless keeping tabs.

Craig Aaron, communications director for the group, said SavetheInternet.org doesn’t mind showing its tactics “because we think all Members should have to have a clear public position on the future of the Internet.”

“This is a great chance for Members to see that these issues, which historically have been treated as obscure or highly technical, really do matter to their constituents,” he said.

Catch This. The National Fisheries Institute has hooked the U.S. Tuna Foundation. The two organizations announced this week that they plan to merge their operations under the NFI to “strengthen the seafood community’s” voice, according to a statement issued by the groups.

NFI President John Connelly will lead the combined organization, which will be based in McLean, Va. USTF President Anne Forristall Luke will help with the transition, but no word on what she’ll do after. NFI will start a Tuna Council that will include Tuna Foundation members Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea and StarKist.

New Sheriff in Town. Special agents serving in the military can now call on their very own lobbying group to represent their interests before Congress. The Armed Forces Special Agents Association is starting small — it currently claims a membership of about 50. But David Glendinning, the group’s part-time director, said given the number of people in the profession, the rolls could climb into the thousands. For now, he is focused on two goals: securing retirement credit for the work military members do before going into civilian service; and getting federal assistance to surviving family of civilian agents killed in war.

Halliburton’s Hot Seat. As if energy giant Halliburton didn’t already have enough on its Congressional plate — what with hearings scheduled to examine Iraq contracts — the firm has come under attack from Capitol Hill Democrats for its announced move to Dubai.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is looking into holding a hearing on the move, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also blasted the company’s decision.

Melissa Norcross, a Halliburton spokeswoman, said in a statement that Halliburton will remain a U.S. corporation, incorporated in Delaware. Halliburton’s KBR unit, which is spinning off next month, has been on the hot seat for contracts in Iraq.

When it comes to Congress, Norcross added in the statement, “Halliburton will continue to be forthcoming with information regarding KBR’s 60-year history of work for the U.S. military in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Halliburton and KBR are complying with numerous requests for information.”

She would not say whether the company has stepped up its outreach to Democrats since the news of its move sparked controversy, but someone familiar with Halliburton’s lobbying team said it is not doing anything additional.

Last year, Halliburton reported spending $300,000 on federal lobbying, and Donald Deline heads the Washington, D.C., office. Patton Boggs, Vinson & Elkins and Qorvis Communications represent the company.

K Street Moves. Rachel Robinson, former chief of staff to former House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio), is joining the American International Automobile Dealers Association as its vice president of government relations.

• The National Association of Manufacturers has added Marc-Anthony Signorino to its roster of lobbyists. Signorino, most recently with the American Electronics Association, will serve as director of technology policy.

• John Tahsuda, former staff director of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has joined the Navigators lobbying firm. He will serve as a vice president in the firm’s tribal affairs practice. Prior to his Senate work, Tahsuda worked as general counsel and legislative director of the National Indian Gaming Association.

• Jack Hogan, a founder of F/S Capitol, a lobbying firm with offices in Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., has been tapped by tobacco company Reynolds American. Hogan will be the company’s senior director for state government relations.