Red Carpet

Posted June 15, 2007 at 6:17pm

Health care lobbyists, clear your afternoon this Wednesday.

The Weinstein Co., which is producing Michael Moore’s upcoming health care critique “Sicko,” is offering to treat you and about 2,000 other federally registered health care lobbyists to an exclusive screening of the critical-of-the-insurance-industry film. [IMGCAP(1)]

The invitee list is very publicly presented in ads in numerous Beltway publications including this one. The ads ask the lobbyists to come to Union Station for the exclusive viewing. But don’t expect to find many who actually show up (the Union Station theatre has 257 seats).

Former Rep. Billy Tauzin (D-La.). who heads the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America and Karen Ignagni, who runs America’s Health Insurance Plans, are among those not going, their spokesmen said.

“We view this as a Hollywood editorial, not a documentary, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders in advancing a positive agenda to provide high quality affordable health care coverage for millions of Americans,” said AHIP’s Mohit Ghose.

Of the screening, he added: “We recognize this for what it is: a public relations stunt.”

Other invitees include Cynthia Berry of Powell Goldstein (not going, either); Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti’s David Castagnetti; Amgen’s Rodger Currie; former Rep. Chris John (D-La.); and power couple Anthony and Heather Podesta, who each run their own lobbying outfits.

While GOP health care lobbyist Linda Tarplin is on the list, her husband, Richard, is noticeably absent. A former Health and Human Services official during President Bill Clinton’s administration, Richard Tarplin represents several health care clients at Timmons and Company. Also missing are Chris Jennings, another Clinton administration alum, who runs Jennings Policy Strategies; and Democrats Joel Johnson of the Glover Park Group and solo lobbyist Chuck Brain.

“Maybe we haven’t fully transitioned to the dark side,” joked Richard Tarplin, speculating on why he and those fellow Democrats didn’t make Moore’s cut.

On Wednesday, the film’s creators, including Moore, also are planning an event with Democratic Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Pete Stark (Calif.) and Members of the Hispanic Caucus on the for-profit insurance industry.

Times-a-Changin’. Between bouts of panic over new disclosure requirements and stiffened criminal penalties, most lobbyists love to pooh-pooh the impact of recent ethics reforms.

It’s still a town built on relationships, they say. And as long as Members of Congress need to raise private money for their campaigns, they’ll need to grant face time to K Streeters.

But at least one lobbying bigwig is taking a different view. In a recent editorial in his group’s magazine, American Chemistry Council president Jack Gerard argued that the reforms will have a dramatic impact on the way in the influence trade is plied.

“It is clear the focus will return to mobilizing the voters at home and not the ‘good old boy network’ once so prevalent inside the beltway,” Gerard wrote.

Following up, council spokeswoman Jennifer Scott said: “Instead of the focus being on a lunch or airplane ride or golf game with one or two individuals, there is an opportunity to have 2,000 voters organized to speak.”

Of course, the new rules are not yet in force. But reform groups expect House and Senate leaders to quickly conference their two versions of the bill and wrap up work on the reform overhaul by the July Fourth recess.

Education Campaign. Former Iowa Gov. and one-time presidential candidate Tom Vilsack is launching a campaign of a different kind.

From his perch at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Vilsack is planning to lobby on the No Child Left Behind Act on behalf of the National Education Association.

Vilsack said he will get in touch with Members, expressing his concerns about the law.

For one, he said student assessment tests should offer more flexibility for students who are learning English as a second language.

“We think there should be a growth model, where you take a look at a youngster’s growth,” he said. He also wants students learning English to have sufficient time to learn the language before their test scores are counted.

“If you are in a rural school, with only a few kids, that can really skew the average,” Vilsack said.

He also is calling for more flexibility about the definition of “highly qualified teachers.”

“Members of Congress, they need someone I think that they trust who has been dealing with this as a governor to basically say these are the things that you and your staff need to look at in order to make this law work as you intended so that no child is indeed left behind,” he said.

Waking Jack Valenti. A who’s who of the Washington, D.C., lobbying scene will help celebrate the tome of Jack Valenti, who passed away before he could take a planned whirlwind book tour to promote his just- released “This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House, and Hollywood.”

The event is sponsored by Valenti’s successor at the Motion Picture Association of America, Dan Glickman, and his wife, Rhoda, and a long list of top lobbyists. Among them: The Recording Industry Association of America’s president Mitch Bainwol; AT&T lobbyist Lyndon Boozer; Akin Gump’s Joel Jankowsky; National Association of Broadcasters chief David Rehr; and one-time Valenti colleague Cynthia Merifield Tripodi.

“I think it’s a continuation of the celebration of the life of Jack Valenti,” Jankowsky said. “People were sad that Jack never got to go on book tour. He was excited about it. We’re sad we’ll never hear him do the actual oral book on tape.”

Tripodi said the group came together in recent weeks after e-mailing one another.

“We decided that since Jack isn’t here to do a book signing, we thought let’s do a book signing anyway, to honor him and [his widow] Mary Margaret,” she said. “We’re going to tell our favorite Jack stories.”

And Mary Margaret Valenti will sign the books in her husband’s honor.

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