Breaking the Fast

Posted October 12, 2007 at 6:27pm

The Rev. David Duncombe, 79, who has spent the past 40 days lobbying for a debt-relief bill while on a hunger strike, is 24 hours away from having his first bite to eat since early September. And he won’t be dining alone: At least four Members, who are fasting today, also will break bread with Duncombe at an event Tuesday morning in the Rayburn House Office Building. [IMGCAP(1)]

Duncombe, who said late last week that he is down to 121 pounds on his 6-foot-2-inch frame, plans to eat with Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who are fasting today in support of the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2007, a bill that would cancel much of the debt that poor nations owe the United States and international financial organizations. Waters introduced the bill in the House.

Duncombe said a companion bill is likely to be introduced as early as Tuesday in the Senate by Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and others.

“I’m very weak,” Duncombe, who has lost 24 pounds, said Friday. “I have to be transported around in a wheelchair, but I’m still able to make [Congressional] office visits. I’m really looking forward to eating.”

Duncombe, who said he has allowed himself only water, has checked in with a doctor at least once a week for monitoring.

“I can say that I have probably moved some people to co-sponsor and to vote for this,” he said of his unusual lobbying effort. “I see mostly Members in the House, who are on the Financial Services Committee, who are Republicans, so sometimes it can be tough.”

Grown-Ups. The group Majority Under 40, started by several under-age-40 Democratic lobbyists earlier this year as a way to get to know their party’s freshman class, is turning 21 — sort of.

David Thomas, a founder of the network and a lobbyist with Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, said Majority Under 40 has held 20 meet-and-greet breakfasts with Members. So for its 21st event, the group is graduating from coffee and donuts to cocktails and happy hour at a shindig Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 8:30 with rocker Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.).

The Majority Under 40 events are not fundraisers, but they give lobbyists a chance to get their faces in front of the freshman class. “We’re actually inviting all the Members and staff who have come to events before,” Thomas said, adding that the group also expects an appearance by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) at the Lounge 201 party.

The group has done events with Reps. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.), among others. “What I’m excited about is we got halfway through the class in less than halfway through the Congress,” Thomas said. “We’ll continue to do them as long as people still want to, and Members want to come.”

With all the gift bans and new ethics restrictions, will the Members and staff have to pay their own bar tab? Thomas said the event is covered by widely attended event and reception food and drink exceptions. “We ran this through our outside counsel,” he said.

New Output. David Hunter has swapped his job in the Senate to join the International Emissions Trading Association, a climate change organization. Hunter, who has a Ph.D. in climate variability, said he is the IETA’s only U.S. employee and has opened its Washington, D.C., policy office.

It’s good timing because there are multiple global warming initiatives winding their way through Congress.

Companies such as Dow Chemical, General Electric, JPMorgan, International Paper and Chevron are members of the association, whose ambitious mission includes the “establishment of effective market-based trading systems for greenhouse gas emissions by businesses that are demonstrably fair, open, efficient, accountable and consistent across national boundaries,” according to its Web site.

Hunter said he left the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), where he was a legislative assistant for energy and environment. He also served as a staff scientist on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Private Equity Watch. The proposals to increase taxes on private equity firms, hedge funds and other partnerships have proved to be a windfall for lobbyists of both parties. The latest beneficiary: Ken Cunningham, who until last year was chief of staff and general counsel to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member (and former chairman) on the Finance Committee.

This month, the Ken Cunningham Group registered to lobby for the Private Equity Council and for industry giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. through the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, according to lobbying disclosure reports.

Cunningham did not return a call seeking comment.

K Street Moves. Jeffrey Taylor, who helped launch a lobbying practice at the Indiana-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg in 2001, has moved to Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations. Taylor previously worked as chief of staff to then-Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.), who now is a lobbyist with Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw.

• In order to secure the job he is starting today, Brian Hale had to pass a polygraph exam and a full background check. That’s because the former Patton Boggs press relations manager has joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he will work in the Office of Public Affairs. “I feel that public service is important, and I wanted the opportunity to serve,” said Hale, who as of today is a non-political civil service employee. The former field producer for “20/20” on ABC News will work on messaging and communications for the bureau.

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