Switch!

Posted July 17, 2007 at 6:26pm

That was quick. Businesses that once cowered in fear of Congressional Republican strong-arms have wasted no time switching allegiances now that GOPers are in the minority. [IMGCAP(1)]

At the halfway mark for the first year of Democratic control, companies from a range of industry sectors have abandoned years of Republican loyalties to cozy up to the new bosses, according to a sampling of political action committee reports from CQ PoliticalMoneyLine.

AFLAC is typical of the trend. Consistently one of the most generous donors in town, the insurance giant directed about 60 percent of its political checks to Republicans over the past three election cycles. But so far this year, it has inverted the ratio, giving Democratic candidates $272,500, or 58 percent, of its boodle. Defense contractor General Dynamics, drug maker Johnson & Johnson and Hartford Financial Services Group have all executed similar turnarounds.

Some corporate givers are still favoring Republicans, but with shrinking margins. Tobacco king R.J. Reynolds, for example, held the percentage of its support for Democrats in the teens while the party was in the minority. Now, while continuing to back Republicans for the most part, the cigarette maker is giving fully a third of its PAC money to Democrats. Others contributing a growing, though still minority share to Democrats, include Dean Foods, American Electric Power and JPMorgan Chase.

Lights, Camera, Campaign Finance. Yet another Mr. S has come to Washington, with some Hollywood — and, gasp — porn-star glitz.

Jonathan Schneider, an actor, producer and now documentary maker, set his sights on the D.C. lobbying and campaign finance world in “Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington.” Starring lobbyists, campaign experts (like Jan Baran) and a few porn actresses, the film takes a critical look at the Federal Election Commission and Members of Congress.

In one highlight available at the movie’s Web site, Schneider re-enacts a fundraising video sent out by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), with a homeless man playing Crapo and Skid Row filling in for Sun Valley, Idaho, where the real hunting and fishing event is.

Few of the Washingtonians in the film could recall their interviews with Schneider, who worked on it in 2005 and 2006 (including a conversation with one of this column’s contributors, who didn’t make the cut — perhaps in a bid to make way for the more telegenic porn actresses). But fundraiser Mike Fraioli, president of Fraioli & Associates, remembers one key thing: “I had my clothes on the whole time, and you can quote me on that,” he said after learning that self-described porn stars also were in the movie.

Lobbyist Wright Andrews of Butera & Andrews, who is in the film, said he likely expressed concern about the ever-increasing pressure to raise campaign cash. “We’re all caught up in the system,” he said.

The porn stars, Schneider said, appeared in response to a comment by a Republican National Committee official who said that as long as politicians spend less than Americans do on porn and Starbucks then all’s well. To sex up the subject, the porn stars — with considerable coaching — also explain the history of campaign finance reform.

Much to Schneider’s surprise, though, it isn’t the lobbyists he blames for the problem of money and politics. “Going into this thing, I thought the lobbyists were going to be the big bad guys, but the bad guys of this film are Members of Congress,” he said.

One of Schneider’s biggest disappointments: not getting an interview with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), even though he said he made repeated requests.

“This guy is at the forefront of campaign finance reform and its largest and most influential voice,” Schneider said. “Then it hit me: He decided to run for president, and it seemed the ultimate example of how Members of Congress put their interests before that of the American people. No issue — nothing — is more important than them maintaining power.”

Schneider is hosting a private premiere of his one-hour-and-17-minute movie for the firm’s participants on July 25. So far it has not been picked up by any theaters, but Schneider hopes to get it into film festivals in time for the ’08 season.

In Remembrance. He may no longer work in the White House, but Covington & Burling partner Stuart Eizenstat is still heavily involved in Holocaust-era issues.

“It has been an essential part of my life,” he said, noting he lost family members in the event.

With that, he will be joining Holland & Knight on Thursday to continue that advocacy as the keynote speaker for the 13th annual Holocaust Remembrance Project’s Transfer of Testimony Ceremony.

“I think it is a wonderful gesture that a major firm has an annual ceremony for Holocaust victims,” said Eizenstat, who said he planned to speak about reforming property rights in Poland so Holocaust victims are properly compensated and his efforts to help survivors now living in poverty.

The event — which derives its name from the passing-down of Holocaust stories from the survivors to the current generation — is part of Holland & Knight’s scholarship program that awards money to students from around the country based on essays they write about the Holocaust.

Angela Ruth, executive director of Holland & Knight’s charitable foundation, said the firm awards upward of $33,000 in direct scholarships.

This year, however, they will be awarding one additional $18,000 scholarship in honor of professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor killed in the Virginia Tech shootings. Librescu’s wife, Marilena, will give her final public speech at the event before she moves to Israel.

K Street Moves. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America has selected David Sampson, deputy secretary of Commerce, as its president and chief executive officer. He will begin on Sept. 2, overseeing a staff of 240 people with a budget of $40 million, including outposts beyond the Beltway. Sampson previously was president and CEO of the Arlington, Texas, Chamber of Commerce.

• Shirley Bloomfield is leaving the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association to become senior vice president for federal relations at Qwest Communications, replacing the retiring Gary Lytle. Bloomfield is a former aide to Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.).

• Dawn Sweeney, who runs AARP Services Inc., will become president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association on Oct. 1, replacing Steven Anderson, who became head of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores earlier this year.