Fighting Back

Posted July 10, 2007 at 6:25pm

Just in time for lobbyists to decompress after today’s marathon hearings into the taxes (or lack thereof) paid by private equity firms, hedge funds and other partnerships, House Chief Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is planning his second coalition meeting to stop bills that would sharply increase the tax rates on such enterprises. [IMGCAP(1)]

Dubbed the Coalition for the Freedom of American Investors and Retirees, Cantor’s effort is a collaboration among Members, the lobbyists who represent private equity and hedge funds, as well as anti-tax groups. Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) also is working on the coalition, which is planning a 4 p.m. meeting Thursday in Room HC-9 of the Capitol.

“This is just the beginning of the education process both for Members and the grass roots to continue getting updated on what this issue is about,” said Reynolds spokesman L.D. Platt. “It’s about raising taxes.”

Today’s hearings include two on hedge funds in the Rayburn House Office Building and a Senate Finance panel look into the taxes on carried interest, which is the percentage cut that private equity firms, or other partnerships, pocket from the profit on their deals. Those profits are currently taxed at the 15 percent capital gains rate, but a bill sponsored by Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) would move the rate closer to 35 percent.

Lobbyists are eager to attend the Cantor sessions. “Congressmen Cantor and Reynolds put a large coalition together quickly, and the buzz surrounding it has all been positive,” said Todd Boulanger of Cassidy & Associates, who is working on the Cantor side.

Burying the Dead. The card-check bill to ease union organizing — buried in the Senate on June 20 when it fell well short of the 60 votes needed to end debate — seems like ancient history now.

But the business-backed group that helped kill labor’s top priority is determined to pour cement on the grave. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace on Tuesday launched radio ads in five states to thank its allies and punish its opponents.

Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Norm Coleman (Minn.), both Republicans facing tough re-election fights, are getting thank yous for their “no” votes on the measure. Constituents of Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.), meanwhile, will hear spots that say their representatives “caved to union bosses,” voted “for special interests” and favored “another loss for working people.”

The blitz is the latest installment of a running campaign by the business lobby to keep the debate defined on its terms. As business sees it, the bill eliminates the time-honored secret ballot workers use when voting on whether to unionize. For the unions, however, the bill would allow workers to more freely organize by avoiding the scare tactics employers sometimes use in the runup to that secret vote.

It will not be the last media push, either, said coalition spokesman Todd Harris. “We made it very clear that just because the vote is over, that the issue, for us, is not going to go away,” he said.

Energy Force. One sugar company is trying to find a sweetener for itself in federal energy legislation.

Florida Crystals has hired tax firm Washington Council Ernst & Young to help it identify potential tax incentives for turning its waste material into electricity or liquid fuels.

“Florida Crystals is very interested in renewable energy tax issues,” said Timothy Urban of Washington Council Ernst & Young. “Although some of the technology is still immature, with the right incentives, the biomass material left over from their agricultural businesses may be able to be converted into both renewable electricity and biofuels.”

Manufacturing Change. The National Association of Manufacturers, a group viewed as Republican-leaning on many issues, especially under the leadership of former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R), is bolstering its Democratic credentials. The group, which has experienced a personnel exodus of late, is adding Ryan Modlin, who is currently a lobbyist with the firm Artemis Strategies.

Modlin, who got his start in politics working as an intern for hometown Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), and later on Dingell’s re-election campaigns, will join NAM on July 23 as senior director of government relations. Among other issues, Modlin will focus on global climate change. Dingell is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over many climate change issues.

“When an opportunity like the Manufacturers comes up, it’s hard to say no,” said Modlin, who considers Dingell a mentor and who also has worked at Cassidy & Associates. “There are a lot of issues that affect the working men and women of this country that they focus on.”

Modlin stressed that he likes to work both sides of the aisle, reaching out to Republicans as well as Democrats.

A Solo Intellectual. Intellectual property expert Steve Pinkos is going out on his own. After his recent exit from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where he was a deputy undersecretary, Pinkos is setting up a one-man practice with offices in Texas and Washington, D.C. The shop will provide strategic policy and legal advice, said Pinkos, who served as staff director and deputy general counsel for the House Judiciary Committee until 2004.

K Street Moves. American Transmission Co.’s Washington, D.C., office has hired Heath Knakmuhs, who has been an energy lawyer at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, as its director of federal affairs.

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