Flying Solo

Posted February 29, 2008 at 6:06pm

Brian Kelly, the top Republican lobbyist for Comcast, has left the company after five years to hang out his own shingle. Brian Kelly Strategies, as the shop is called, already is working with Comcast, and Kelly said he is in talks with other telecom companies and foreign countries.

[IMGCAP(1)]“I’m flying my own airplane and having a great time,” Kelly said of the venture. The native Mississippian is a veteran of the Republican National Committee. Before Comcast, he logged stints with the Electronic Industries Alliance and Walt Disney Co.

Seeking a Balance. A key Wall Street group reached out to Blue Dog Democrats last week with an unlikely pitch: a pair of proposals aimed at easing the dislocation for workers and communities impacted by trade deals. The Financial Services Forum — which represents 20 chief executives of the largest financial institutions — wants Congress to update worker adjustment assistance programs and create a federal insurance pool to protect communities from short-term economic shocks.

The concepts come from a report the group commissioned last summer in search of innovative approaches to easing the pains of globalization. “It’s aggressive ideas lobbying,” said the group’s president, Rob Nichols. “While we firmly believe that trade provides massive aggregate benefits, we acknowledge the dislocations in some regions and industries that are not feeling and sharing in the full benefits of globalization.”

The group already has met with outside groups close to Democrats — including Third Way and the AFL-CIO — but the Wednesday sit-down at Tortilla Coast marked its first appeal to a Democratic caucus.

Let the Sun Shine. Five corporate powerhouses have agreed to disclose more about their political spending in response to a nationwide investor campaign. The companies — Texas Instruments, Washington Mutual, Xerox, Capital One and American Express — will now report their payments to trade associations and other tax-exempt groups engaged in political activity, the Center for Political Accountability announced last week. The companies join a list of 38 others that have agreed to the transparency standards since the center started its drive in 2003.

Business of Politics. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is kicking off what will be a multimillion-dollar 2008 political effort starting with an endorsement in this week’s special election in Illinois. The big-business lobby group officially has picked Republican candidate Jim Oberweis, a businessman, to take over the seat of former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

This will be just the beginning of a significant batch of upcoming endorsements and other political activities including TV ads, said the group’s political director, Bill Miller.

On the Illinois special race, Miller said, “We’re certainly communicating with our members, trying to raise awareness. [Oberweis’] background as a business leader makes him the candidate that can best represent the business community both in Illinois and in the Congress.”

A committee that will help the chamber make its recommendations plans to meet in the coming days, and the group likely will announce “a heavy docket of endorsements” by early April, Miller added.

In the 2006 cycle, the chamber spent more than $20 million on political work. “The chamber doesn’t go backwards; we get bigger,” Miller said, declining to give a precise dollar amount to the ’08 effort.

Like the previous cycle, the group plans a cross-country bus tour to register business-minded voters.

“We plan to roll out a very vigorous 2008 political operation that includes voter education, get out the vote, endorsements, putting people on the ground and using the multiplying effect of our our member companies and associations to make sure constituents understand where Members of Congress and candidates stand on issues important to the chamber,” Miller said.

In Memory. Longtime Democratic lobbyist Laurie Sullivan, who was 56, died of breast cancer late last month. On Feb. 29, a packed crowd of Sullivan’s family members, colleagues and Members of Congress held a memorial service at Union Station’s Columbus Club.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) both spoke, and Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) were among the Members who attended, said Amy Tejral, a partner in Sullivan’s all-women, all-Democratic lobbying firm Avenue Solutions.

“It was an unbelievable turnout,” Tejral said.

Sullivan focused on health care, telecommunications and pension lobbying issues for a long list of clients that included Citigroup, Aetna, Northwest Airlines and UnitedHealth Group.

“She was working up until about two weeks ago,” Tejral said. “She was such a fighter.”

Tejral added that she and another Avenue Solutions partner, Tracy Spicer, plan to carry on with the lobbying firm. “Laurie loved that we were all women and all Democrats,” Tejral said. “She had built that. We absolutely intend to carry on for her.”

K Street Moves. Tricia Barrentine Guay, most recently deputy chief of staff to Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.), has joined the Petrizzo Strategic Group as senior vice president. Guay has two decades of Capitol Hill experience, having served for former Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.), who ran unsuccessfully for governor in Florida and is now a lobbyist with Holland & Knight.

• McAllister & Quinn has bulked up on Democratic lobbyists. The bipartisan firm has added Melissa Hampe, a former legislative director for Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and domestic policy adviser for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, and Meg Murray, who spent the past two years on the staff of Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

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