A Heady Brew

Posted June 13, 2008 at 5:46pm

It may be a Belgian-Brazilian brewing company, but InBev is already aware of the political muscle it needs to secure support for its bid to buy St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos.

[IMGCAP(1)]InBev has created a D.C. lobbying presence — from next to nothing a few weeks ago — hiring Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, Breaux-Lott Leadership Group and the Glover Park Group as it readied itself to buy out the iconic American beer supplier. Michael Boland and Sean Richardson are leading the government affairs push for Madigan Peck.

The move to beef up in D.C. came as the company decided to launch its takeover bid, says InBev spokeswoman Nina Devlin of the Brunswick Group.

“InBev traditionally has had a very limited presence in the U.S.,” Devlin said. “We’ll most likely retain people as the process continues. We want to make sure the political audience understands the merits of [the deal].”

InBev has already faced state and federal opposition from Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt (R), who has publicly denounced the potential buyout, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has also tried to pressure Anheuser-Busch to reject the deal.

“I read the offer with about as much enthusiasm as a bid to relocate the St. Louis Arch to Brussels,” McCaskill said in a statement.

Last week, McCaskill and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced legislation that would dramatically change the lobbing disclosure requirements for foreign corporation clients, such as InBev.

The legislation, which is also backed by Democratic White House contender Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), would require lobbyists to disclose and report any activities on behalf of foreign corporations to the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

It would also require lobbyists to disclose under FARA any lobbying meetings they have with U.S. officials on foreign soil, Schumer and McCaskill said.

McCaskill said the InBev situation is an example of why foreign clients should operate in “complete sunshine. By making these changes … we will make sure that no one is operating in the shadows on behalf of foreign companies, foreign governments or foreign dictators.”

Should the deal go forward, InBev will also likely benefit from Anheuser-Busch’s large Washington presence. The company, which has one of the largest in-house teams among beer suppliers, also has 11 lobby shops on retainer, including Timmons & Co., Van Scoyoc Associates and Bryan Cave Strategies. It spent $3.4 million on lobbying in 2007.

LDA Blues. The scramble for ethics lawyers to ensure that their clients are in compliance with the new, upcoming lobbying disclosure requirements may soon be on.

Ethics lawyers have been in a tizzy over the delay by the House Clerk’s office in making the new LD-203 form available.

But Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for the House Administration Committee, says the wait is almost over. “The LD-203 form is in final testing stages, and the current target date is June 30,” Anderson said.

The Honest Government and Leadership Act of 2007 requires lobbyists by July 30 and Jan. 30 to publicly report certain contributions to political campaigns and event costs.

Additionally, the filer must certify that they read and understand the rules of the House and Senate relating to gifts and travel.

Client Climber. The typical tools of a lobbyist include a checkbook (for campaign donations) and a BlackBerry. But Nancy Buermeyer, a lobbyist with the Raben Group, is putting an ice ax and crampons to use on behalf of one client.

This week, Buermeyer and a group of 35 climbers will attempt to climb the 14,000-foot Mount Shasta in California to benefit the Breast Cancer Fund, a group that lobbies to ban certain chemicals that it says contribute to the disease.

“Everybody who signs up to do the climb agrees to raise at least $5,000,” Buermeyer said. “And everyone pays their own expenses.”

When she’s not on the mountain but lobbying on Capitol Hill, Buermeyer said she is working to get an amendment included in the Consumer Product Safety Reform bill that would ban phthalates in toys.

At midnight Tuesday, however, she is expected to head for the summit. Last year, she said, she never made it to the top.

“It was very scary,” she said. “A large boulder came tearing down the mountain and sent the entire team scrambling. The guides, who have a ton of experience, said they’d never seen anything like it.”

After the trip, the Breast Cancer Fund does a training on how the climbers can be better advocates, Buermeyer said. “When I think of all my friends trying to fight breast cancer, this is nothing,” Buermeyer said of her climb.

A spokeswoman for the Breast Cancer Fund said the fundraiser began in 1995 with an expedition up Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. The group has also climbed Mount Ranier in Washington state.

For more information on Buermeyer’s adventure or to donate to the group, go to breastcancerfund.org/climb08/nancyb.

K Street Moves. Colling Swift & Hynes has added Todd Curry, most recently a legislative aide to Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), as a lobbyist in the firm’s environmental practice. While working for Ortiz, Curry focused on natural resources and conservation issues.

• Shawn Sullivan, who was regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Republican Institute, has joined the international affairs practice at Cassidy & Associates as a senior vice president. From 1995 to 2003, Sullivan worked at the State and Defense departments.

Meanwhile, Cassidy recently lost a a big name: Gregory Gill, the firm’s former executive vice president and general counsel for 16 years has moved to Venable, where he is a partner.

• The U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, a coalition of business and community organizations that lobbies for a strong U.S. international affairs budget, has tapped David Medina, the one-time political director for former Sen. John Edwards’ (D-N.C.) presidential campaign, as its director of government relations.

• The lobbying firm Turner GPA has hired Morgan Muchnick as a director of government affairs. Muchnick most recently served as senior public policy and government relations manager for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

• The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which advocates allowing gay people to serve openly in the U.S. military, has named Adam Ebbin as its new communications director.

• Mark Micali, once an aide to then-Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), has joined Merrill Lynch & Co. as director of government relations.

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