A Win for Reformers

Posted April 11, 2008 at 6:15pm

The National Association of Manufacturers on Friday was handed a big defeat in its challenge to a provision in the lobbying reform law that it said violated its constitutional rights.

[IMGCAP(1)]Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in a 57-page ruling, dismissed in its entirety NAM’s challenge to the disclosure provision.

At issue in the case was a piece of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act aimed at forcing stealth lobbying coalitions — those groups that exist only on paper to hide their financial backers — to disclose their members.

The measure requires coalitions to report any organization that contributes at least $5,000 per quarter and actively participates in shaping lobbying campaigns.

But NAM contended the measure would force it to disclose its membership, in violation of its First Amendment rights to free association.

In its ruling, the court found that, contrary to NAM’s argument, the provision “is narrowly tailored to serve compelling government interests, and is neither vague on its face nor as applied to the NAM.”

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, whose group filed an opposing brief in the suit, said, “We’ve always believed that this lobbying disclosure provision was constitutional and the NAM case was without merit. We are pleased that the district court judge reached the same conclusion and dismissed the case.”

NAM officials could not be reached for comment Friday evening, and it was not known whether the group would appeal the ruling.

Old College Try. The free-trade agreement between the United States and Colombia is seriously on the rocks after a week of executive-legislative branch showdowns, but that setback hasn’t stopped corporate lobbyists from trying to revive an even more difficult item on the international trade agenda.

A delegation of about 20 business lobbyists and corporate honchos has set off for Geneva, Switzerland, this week for three days of meetings with World Trade Organization officials in an attempt to recharge the long-stalled Doha round trade talks.

“We are there to try to put some heft behind the idea that the U.S. business community wants to see a successful round,” said Christopher Wenk, senior director of international policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who is part of the delegation. “We’re going to buck them up. We want to see something done.”

Along with Wenk, other participants include Emily Beizer, vice president of international affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association; Catherine Bennett, senior vice president for the National Foreign Trade Council; Devry Boughner, director of international relations for Cargill Inc.; Doug Goudie, director of international trade policy for the National Association of Manufacturers; and Linda Menghetti, vice president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade.

In addition, companies such as Wal-Mart, FedEx, Mars Inc., Philip Morris International, Crop Life America and Toyota sent executives on the Geneva trip.

According to the trip’s agenda, the business advocates plan to meet with Peter Allgeier, who serves as the U.S.’s representative to the WTO, as well as Chinese, Brazilian and other ambassadors to the WTO.

When it comes to the up-in-the-air agreement with Colombia, Wenk said the partisan politics and uncertainty of whether Congress will even vote on the deal have not put the breaks on the business community’s lobbying efforts in support of the FTA. “This will reinvigorate the pro-FTA forces to make sure we get a vote this year on the agreement,” he said.

Er, Facelift. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has a new face, so to speak, on Capitol Hill. Lori Shoaf joined the group last month from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. And while the plastic surgeons have had an office here for three years and contract lobbyists on retainer for nearly a decade, Shoaf becomes their first full-time, in-house ambassador to the Hill.

She described her hiring as a natural outgrowth of “organizational development,” rather than a concerted effort by the cosmetic wizards to ramp up their profile here.

First up for Shoaf: the Medicare payment fix doctors across the board are seeking and a bill to require insurance companies to cover reconstructive surgery for congenital defects like cleft palate.

“A lot of people associate plastic surgeons with ‘Nip/Tuck,’” Shoaf said, referring to the popular TV show. “But we also do a lot of reconstructive surgeries that are important for patients.”

K Street Moves. Pat Raffaniello has struck out on his own, leaving the Federal Policy Group five years after it was bought by Clark Consulting.

“I hired a really creative ad agency, and they thought and thought and they came up with Raffaniello & Associates,” he said.

Raffaniello, 52, specializes in tax policy for energy clients. He is taking several clients with him, including UPS, the National Mining Association, TECO Energy, SCANA Corp. and Matson Navigation.

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