Getting Fresh

Posted November 2, 2007 at 6:13pm

“Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone has a clue about lobbying. The vegan actress has lent her celebrity to a lobbying effort by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group that opposes animal research and promotes a vegetarian diet. [IMGCAP(1)]

PCRM wants Senators to adopt the FRESH Act — or Farm, Ranch, Equity, Stewardship and Health Act — this week as an amendment to the farm bill. Supporters of the FRESH Act, sponsored by Sens. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), say it would reform commodity programs and create new funds for nutrition programs.

Silverstone, in a recorded voice message to PCRM supporters, urges her fellow activists to call their Senators. She even provides the Capitol switchboard number. “Forgive me for leaving you a recorded message, but we need your help,” she says in the message. “In the next few days the Senate will decide whether to continue massive subsidies for meat, dairy products and other foods that are fueling the epidemic of childhood obesity. A good amendment to the farm bill, called the FRESH Act, will cut subsidies for unhealthy foods.”

But Karen Batra, director of public affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said Silverstone is “misinformed.” “There’s no body in the meat sector that is subsidized,” she said. “Milk is a little bit, but primarily [the bill] is talking about doing away with big subsidies on things like corn and sugar.”

Larry Mitchell of the American Corn Growers Association said the group does not support the act.

And Ruth Saunders, senior director of policy communications for the International Dairy Foods Association, said PCRM is making “misconstrued allegations” and added that dairy has well-documented nutritional benefits.

“It is completely inaccurate to characterize the current farm bill as underwriting surplus production of milk and dairy products in this country,” she said. “The FRESH Act really has to do with reducing commodity programs, and really it’s the grain programs, not dairy or livestock.”

The FRESH Act was not included in the House-passed farm bill, said PCRM’s government affairs manager, Kyle Ash. “We’re concerned that what happened in the House will occur again in the Senate,” he said, explaining his group’s stepped-up lobbying efforts.

Sadly for Silverstone’s Capitol Hill fans, the actress has no plans to lobby the cause in person.

Big Money, No Job. Lawyers, lobbyists and financial services pros better watch out. Another “industry” group has surpassed those generous sectors in giving to presidential candidates during the third quarter. It’s the retirees.

A new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics discovered that people who listed their occupation as retired forked over the most money in the previous quarter — about $9.2 million. The retirees, it turns out, are not just a flush-with-cash group, but they also are bipartisan, giving 51 percent of their cash to Democrats and 49 percent to Republicans.

In the third quarter, the retirees were followed by lawyers, real estate professionals and employees of securities and investment firms.

“They’ve usually been in the top but not the very top,” said the center’s executive director, Sheila Krumholz. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is the retirees’ favored candidate, followed by Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). “It is unusual for this cycle. Lawyers and law firms are usually the No. 1 industry,” she said.

Drew Nannis, a spokesman for AARP, said the rise of the retirees is not surprising.

Voters age 50 and older cast half of the ballots in the 2006 elections, he said, and 95 percent of AARP’s membership is registered to vote.

“I think because of the health care crisis that is facing us today and the long-term financial security issues, it’s not surprising they would be engaged at this high level,” he said. Some of retirees’ top issues, he added, include the war in Iraq, health care and financial security.

The CRP’s report also found that the companies whose employees have been the most generous to presidential coffers in the third quarter were Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, National Amusements Inc. and JPMorgan Chase.

The top law firm on the list was Greenberg Traurig, coming in No. 7 overall. It is the one-time employer of jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Youth Power. Thousands of young voters are expected to rally on the Capitol’s West Lawn today — wearing green hard hats — in support of a clean-energy economy.

Jessy Tolkan, the 26-year -old executive director of the sponsoring group, the Energy Action Coalition, said the rally is designed to persuade lawmakers to create 5 million environmentally friendly green jobs by 2015.

The students also will rally for causes that includes the freezing of pollution levels and a cessation of new coal plants, the group said in a press release.

“We are organizing because we absolutely need bold and comprehensive legislation in this country,” Tolkan said in an interview.

Most of the rally’s participants will be coming from this weekend’s national youth summit, Power Shift 2007, which was held at the University of Maryland, College Park. Tolkan said that 6,000 youths from all 50 states registered for the weekend summit and at least half are expected to rally Congress today.

K Street Moves. Douglas Richardson, formerly director of government relations for the law firm McDermott Will & Emery, has joined the lobby operation of mCapitol Management as a vice president. Richardson also once worked as director of policy and communications at the Democratic Governors Association.

• The American Legislative Exchange Council has added Catherine Bray — a former chief of staff to Richard Ashworth, a member of the European Parliament — as its director of international relations.

Leah Carliner contributed to this report.

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