Shopping for Support

Posted May 1, 2007 at 6:45pm

Lee Scott, the chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., plans to spend today on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers of both parties including Members of leadership. [IMGCAP(1)]

Scott is not expected to interrupt his lobby day to conduct interviews for the corporate office’s top lobbying job, sources said. Search firm Spencer Stuart’s Jackie Arends has been tasked with finding the right candidate to fill the slot, which opened up after Lee Culpepper, who held the job since 2005, was promoted to vice president of corporate affairs, a move that will take him to company headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

A Washington, D.C.-based Wal-Mart spokesman called Scott’s trip a routine “touch-base session.”

Sources familiar with Scott’s schedule for today said he planned to meet with members of leadership, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Republicans. Some of the topics up for discussion, sources said, could include opposition to the labor-union-backed card check legislation that would allow employees to unionize without the need for a secret ballot. Wal-Mart’s long list of legislative issues also includes taxes and trade.

Robert Traynham, the Wal-Mart spokesman, said Scott’s plans did not include any fundraising bashes while he’s inside the Beltway, but last year the company’s political action committee gave out nearly $1.3 million to federal candidates.

“Scott’s timing couldn’t be worse,” said Wal-Mart critic Nu Wexler of Wal-Mart Watch, citing a report this week by Human Rights Watch that criticized Wal-Mart’s anti-union efforts.

Smooth Sailing. The all-GOP firm once known as Lundquist Nethercutt & Griles — that’s the Steven Griles who was convicted as part of the Jack Abramoff scandal — has now become the bipartisan and tranquil-sounding BlueWater Strategies.

The shop’s founder is Andrew Lundquist, an energy lobbyist who served as director of energy policy for Vice President Cheney and who worked as the staff director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He has brought on Democrat Eric Washburn, a veteran energy and environmental lobbyist who spent a decade working for former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

“He and I come from very different political sides of the aisle, but there were also a lot of things we agreed on,” Washburn said. While working on Capitol Hill together, “we became friends,” he added.

Washburn, an avid sailor who had his own lobbying business called Windward Consulting, said the BlueWater name refers to sailing on the open ocean. “It’s more dangerous and harder to navigate,” he said. “It’s a metaphor, and hopefully we’ll help clients navigate the difficult and challenging battle ground on Capitol Hill.”

Lundquist isn’t making a big deal about going bipartisan. “I don’t even see partisan and bipartisan,” he said. “You provide a service to your clients and you work towards achieving a goal for them, and Eric just provides a new level of service to our clients.”

The shop includes former LN&G lobbyists Tim Kurth, a former aide to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.); Howard Useem, a veteran of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee; Kjersten Drager, who, like Lundquist, came from Cheney’s staff; and former Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.).

Washburn said he would like to see the business grow enough to add additional Democratic and GOP lobbyists. The shop shares space with the firm of former Federal Emergency Management Agency head Joe Allbaugh, and Lundquist also has a joint enterprise with Allbaugh called Blackwell Fairbanks, a nod to the Oklahoma and Alaska home cities of each partner.

Madam K Street. Since word leaked out that the infamous D.C. madam’s list contains the names of some K Street denizens, the topic has taken on a partisan twist among lobbyists. Of course everyone will be glued to Friday’s ABC News report naming names, including lobbyists, right? So bets are on about which party’s lobbyists have enjoyed the “escort” services of madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s company.

“The old rule is that Democrats have financial scandals and Republicans have sex scandals,” said one obviously Democratic lobbyist, who, like everyone else, declined to speak about the scandal on the record.

A GOP lobbyist has similar expectations. “I think there will be more Rs [on the madam list], for no other reason than every bad story for the last year has had more R than D villains. It’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Rosie Future. Perhaps the next job for Rosie O’Donnell could be a Washington lobbyist.

O’Donnell announced recently that she is stepping down from the daytime show “The View.” Now, this week, her nonprofit Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, which promotes changes to the foster care system, has opened a D.C. outpost.

The foundation plans to lobby for government programs to help low-income kids and encourage adoption of older children. Former gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign chief Elizabeth Birch serves as the foundation’s executive director and Kim Allman will handle lobbying. “As always, Rosie is going to continue to devote significant time and energy to her Foundation work. Elizabeth Birch and Kim Allman will be the day-to-day lobbyists, but Rosie will come to Congress to advocate on behalf of adoptive and foster kids,” said Amy Weiss, who is doing PR for the foundation.

Like Old Times. Companies still eager to play kiss-and-make-up with House Democrats they ignored for their years in the minority got another chance last night. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), and other Democratic leaders partied with K Streeters at the home of Democratic lobbyist Julie Domenick. A source close to the event predicted it would bring in about $160,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman’s Council, Dingell’s nearly 30-year-old fundraising program for the party.

K Street Moves. LeeAnn Petersen, the manager of government relations and public affairs for Volvo Group North America for more than four years, is moving to the D.C. office of Off the Wall Products, a Salt Lake City company that makes security barriers for airports and government buildings. Petersen, as director of sales, said she will focus on selling the company’s products to government agencies. “They’ve got some new products coming out,” Petersen said. “There might be the possibility to do some lobbying, but it’s definitely going to be a change.”

• Blain Rethmeier, a former special assistant to President Bush for communications at the White House, is joining the American Insurance Association as senior vice president for public affairs. He also has worked for Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and former Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.).

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.