Courting Lobbyists

Posted April 20, 2007 at 6:10pm

Everybody loves lobbyists when they’re asking for their money.

But it’s not just Members and fundraisers looking for some K Street cash these days. [IMGCAP(1)]

The Congressional Federal Credit Union has stepped up a membership drive this month putting the sell on federally registered lobbyists.

“What may surprise you is that you too are eligible to join the Credit Union!” reads an April letter from the credit union’s Kerry Terry to lobbyists around town. “If you are a registered lobbyist with the U.S. House of Representatives, then you are eligible for membership.”

The credit union’s Liz Santos said the letter does not signal a change in policy — lobbyists have long been able to join the credit union. But, she said, “It’s not very often, honestly, that we reach out to the lobbyists, which is why we’re trying to cover all areas of the credit union membership.”

Talking Turkey. A delegation of Turkish parliamentarians fanned out across Capitol Hill last week to step up the pressure against a proposed Congressional resolution on Armenian genocide. The nonbinding resolution would label as genocide the killings of Armenians, starting in 1915, by the former Ottoman Empire, and the Turks are pulling out all the stops — meeting with several Members of Congress as well as administration officials.

“The resolution does not do justice,” Onur Öymen, a member of the Turkish Parliament, said last week during an editorial meeting with Roll Call in between Hill visits. “We believe at the end reason will prevail.”

The Turkish officials said their main message to their U.S. counterparts is that if Congress passes the resolution, the U.S. government will pay a hefty price.

“There will be public pressure [to retaliate],” said Yassar Yakis, adding that it is not a threat. The resolution could spur Turkey to stop letting cargo shipped to U.S. forces in Iraq come through the country, end contracts with American defense companies and hurt other U.S. commercial interests there. They took that message to Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), as well as Sens. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), according to the Turkish officials.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the Democratic chairman of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, said that the Turkish officials’ lobbying blitz amounts to denial. “Denial is the last phase of genocide,” Pallone said. He added that he tells his colleagues, who might be concerned about retaliation from Turkey should the resolution pass: “Don’t listen to the bully because it’s the bully that did the genocide. If you’re going to be bullied around by the country that did the genocide then essentially you’re going along with the genocide.”

On Tuesday, a date widely recognized as Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day, members of the Armenian Caucus are planning an event with Armenian groups to shine the spotlight on the effort. “We continue to have an increasing number of Congressional co-sponsors for this, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), signed on,” said Elizabeth Chouldjian, communications director for the Armenian National Committee of America. “Sadly the Turkish government is continuing its worldwide campaign of Armenian genocide denial with this delegation being the latest manifestation of that.”

Going Solo, Global. After 20 years at BKSH & Associates, Riva Levinson has set off on her own, launching KRL International to focus on a range of clients either from, or with an interest in, the developing world. “It was just the right time,” she said of the move.

Levinson, who headed the international practice at BKSH, has already signed up a few clients: the governments of Liberia and Nigeria and the Iraq Memory Foundation.

The work with Liberia continues a decade-long relationship Levinson has fostered with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president.

She also has logged considerable time on Iraq, working for four years with the exiled opposition and then traveling to Baghdad in 2003 to help the new government set up its communications operation. Now she is lobbying Congress to support the Iraq Memory Foundation, a virtual museum dedicated to documenting the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Joining the firm as director is Molly McKew, who was most recently the research program manager for the American Enterprise Institute’s foreign and defense policy studies department. Levinson said they plan to “grow the business as the business grows.”

Having Heart. The American Heart Association is kicking off its lobby day Tuesday with a HEART for Women Act rally on the National Mall to gin up support for a bill that would increase awareness for heart disease in women. Paige Hemmis of the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” will be on hand to lend support for the bill. “She actually has a heart murmur herself and worked with a heart attack victim’s family to rebuild a house on the show,” said the association’s Jessica Collins. On Tuesday evening, the group wraps up the day by sponsoring its Go Red for Women Congressional reception.

K Street Moves. With climate change issues in the Congressional spotlight, the American Wind Energy Association has hired Gregory Wetstone as its senior director for government and public affairs. Wetstone formerly worked as environmental counsel for the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, and he also was U.S. director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.