With continued media focus on how Democrats are living up to their own ethics reform platform, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has quietly nixed plans to join lobbyists in Puerto Rico for a lavish spring fundraiser, according to several lobbyists planning on making the trip. [IMGCAP(1)]
The jaunt, scheduled to start May 2, would have brought Hoyer together with scores of his closest allies on K Street.
“It has been canceled,” said one lobbyist who had planned on going. “People assumed this would happen. Everyone is just being extra cautious.”
Lobbyists slated to go said they had received no official word of the cancellation, but that word was circulating. A Hoyer spokeswoman declined to comment.
The Maryland Democrat has traveled to the island in recent years for similar events. This year, participants were set to stay at the Rio Mar Beach Golf Resort and Spa, which, according to its Web site, was “created to pamper and impress.”
Though ethics reforms adopted by Democrats at the beginning of the Congress banned lobbyist-funded trips, the Puerto Rican spree would have been kosher because it was set to be a fundraiser for Hoyer’s leadership political action committee, AmeriPAC. Rules preventing lawmakers from tapping campaign accounts for personal expenses don’t apply to leadership PACs, so lobbyists’ donations to the fund presumably would have paid Hoyer’s way.
House Democratic leaders have already axed other fundraising trips with lobbyists, including an annual Vail, Colo., ski weekend and a Maryland hunting trip with Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).
The Hoyer trip got some unflattering attention in a late February report by American Public Radio, which filtered through the liberal blogosphere.
A Lobbyist and His Blog. Chris Parandian, by day a telecommunications lobbyist at Capitol Solutions, is moonlighting at an online diner he created. Only he isn’t making extra money — at least not yet. Instead, the effort has cost him $10,000.
Parandian this year launched a blog called MobileDiner.com where the self-proclaimed “wireless evangelist” hopes to bring together wireless users to talk about new products, cell phone service and, of course, a little telecom policy. He represents CTIA-The Wireless Association, Verizon Wireless and the new AT&T wireless, but Parandian said he is “absolutely not” getting paid by any of the wireless carriers or any company, including his own lobbying firm, to do the blog.
He and a fellow Capitol Solutions employee, Ashley Shillingsburg, use their
own time (and money) to update the blog, he said. “We want to have a place, just like a diner, where people of all income levels come because they know the food is good,” Parandian said. It’s also “a place for companies to see and taste what their consumers want.”
In recent posts, Parandian and Shillingsburg have discussed a social networking bill by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to deal with online predators and a new Web site by Sprint to get feedback from customers.
“It’s a decent time commitment,” said Shillingsburg, who plans to take personal time off from her Capitol Solutions job to travel to San Jose, Calif., to cover the Internet-focused VON Conference for the blog.
Parandian said the site allows him to give “back to an industry that’s given me a lot.”
Perhaps the site could end up as a client-development tool.
Andrew Cochran, a lobbyist at GAGE who focuses on homeland security clients, started a blog in January 2005 on counterterrorism news and analysis.
“I started it for business development, substantive credibility and to do a public service,” he said about counterterrorismblog.org. “It’s for Hill staff and people in the general public.”
Contributors who write for the blog, including the Center for Immigration Studies’ Michael Cutler, “have been in the jungles and in the sand. We go through a real vetting before people can post,” Cochran said.
Cochran, a former Hill aide who focused on terrorist financing at the House Financial Services Committee, said he has gotten clients from the blog including a group of people who have lost family members in terrorist attacks. “It’s a risk to do this,” Cochran said. “You have to know what you’re doing — on the substance. You have to know something about HTML and how to upload files.”
K Street Moves. The Hawthorn Group has added three new members. Michael Coe, a former aide to Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), will serve as vice president for government relations. Harvey Valentine, a one-time communications director for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), will serve as vice president for communications. And Kelsey Walker has joined as an associate.
• Kilpatrick Stockton also has a troika of new hires for its lobbying practice. Arch Galloway, a director of government relations, joins the firm after 10 years as a senior defense policy adviser to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Michael Rishling, also a director of government relations, spent 20 years as an intelligence officer with the CIA. Tara Chapman, a government relations adviser, spent four years with the CIA.
• The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America has added Jason Spence as its new assistant vice president for federal government affairs. Spence comes to the Big I from the Treasury Department, where he served as senior adviser to the assistant secretary for financial institutions.
• Maureen Ryan has come aboard at the National Restaurant Association as manager of media relations. She most recently worked as assistant press secretary for then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
• Catharine Cyr Ransom, a Democratic senior policy adviser to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has joined the Accord Group.
• Widmeyer Communications recently added Kathy Gerber, who will serve as a senior associate in the firm’s health care practice.