Wolff Leaves White House

Posted December 14, 2007 at 6:25pm

President Bush has a new top lobbyist. After a rocky start to her tenure that began in 2005 and eventually winning the support of many Members, Candi Wolff is stepping down, and former Duberstein Group lobbyist Dan Meyer will become assistant to the president for legislative affairs.

[IMGCAP(1)]In a statement released Friday by the White House, Bush said, “There are 535 Members of Congress, two parties, and 46 Committee Chairmen – but only one Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs.”

Most recently, Meyer has been a deputy to Wolff in the legislative affairs office, and he spent 15 years on Capitol Hill. Before joining the White House, Wolff was a lobbyist at Washington Council Ernst & Young. And the legislative affairs office post almost always leads to top private-sector lobbying positions.

Playing Nice? Earlier this year Nissan and its Hogan & Hartson lobbyists broke ranks with most other auto companies and pushed for higher fuel-economy standards. Now that those higher standards have made it into the final bill, Nissan is claiming victory.

But other auto companies say Nissan compromised the entire industry to gain just a little for itself.

“The industry ended up much worse off than it could have been because the lobbyists at Hogan & Hartson thought they were smarter than everyone else,” fumed one auto lobbyist who does not represent Nissan. “Instead of being united, the industry spent time fighting itself rather than resolving important issues.”

But a Nissan lobbyist, who would speak only on background, said Nissan was a big winner by pushing for a 35-mile-per-gallon average by 2020.

“Our view is the ostrich approach doesn’t work,” said this lobbyist. By lobbying for the higher standards, Nissan’s lobbyist got a seat at the bargaining table, this lobbyist said, with Hogan & Hartson’s Lance Bultena working regularly with Members and staff.

Nissan also won some little goodies in the bill, which is expected to pass the House early this week and make its way to the president’s desk. It passed the Senate last week. For one, Nissan has extended its ability to treat its domestic and international fleets the same for fuel-economy averages, instead of the typical way, which treats domestic and international fleet averages separately.

Jeannine Ginivan, a spokeswoman for Nissan, said the bill’s tough new fuel standards still would be a challenge for her company. “We’d like to see it become law,” she said. “It’s not perfect for us, but it’s something we can live with and we’ll support.”

Charles Territo of the Auto Alliance, which includes Detroit automakers, Toyota and others, said Nissan went its own way to give itself a competitive advantage.

“Nissan’s vehicles are no more or less fuel efficient than any other manufactures vehicles,” Territo said. “Nissan faces the same challenges that all other manufacturers face.”

Hitting Turbulence. You might think that when the president last week signed a law extending the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots to age 65 that the move would put an end to the lobbying campaign of the Senior Pilots Coalition.

You’d be dead wrong.

The group represents pilots like Lew Tetlow, who at age 60 was forced to retire but has not yet hit 65. They want their jobs back — and their seniority. They say this bill does nothing to change that and, even worse, takes away their right to sue for discrimination. They’re taking on House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and the pilots’ union, the Air Line Pilots Association.

“This is one of the most egregious pieces of legislation that’s ever come through the U.S. Congress,” said Tetlow, 60, a former pilot for US Airways. “It goes further than it just doesn’t help, it says that Chairman Oberstar says I don’t have the right to go to court.”

The senior pilots’ lobbyist, Phil Theodosiou, said the group will decide by early this week whether to mount a constitutional challenge to the law.

Jim Berard, an Oberstar spokesman on the committee, called the situation unfortunate. “In order to get this bill done, we needed the airlines’ support and the support of the airlines allies in Congress,” he said. “The airlines were necessarily worried that if we made this bill retroactive … it would have created some legal problems and personnel problems for the airlines. The question facing Mr. Oberstar was do you help nobody or do you help those pilots who have not yet reached 60?”

K Street Moves. Sheila Murphy, the legislative director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), is heading to K Street to join Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart.

“Few can match Sheila’s record of policy expertise, intimate knowledge of the legislative process and depth of relationships at the most senior levels of the Senate and House,” partner Jeff Peck said.

•Democratic firm Parven Pomper Schuyler has added Vanda McMurtry, who was staff director and chief counsel for the Senate Finance Committee under now- deceased Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas), as senior vice president. The firm named Alixandria Lapp as vice president. Lapp spent the past year as executive director of the New Democrat Network.

• Democratic lobbyists Josh Ackil, most recently with the Information Technology Industry Council, and Matt Tanielian of Cisco are launching a new firm in January. It will focus on high-tech issues.

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