K Street Files: Way Beyond the Beltway

Posted September 1, 2008 at 6:14pm

If you thought the trek from D.C. to Minneapolis-St. Paul was a long one, one “delegation” came all the way from Georgia.

[IMGCAP(1)]That’s Georgia the country, which has made headlines in recent weeks after it was invaded by neighboring Russia.

Georgian Ambassador Vasil Sikharulidze arrived in the Twin Cities on Monday to head a delegation of about five political officials and members of the Georgian parliament. While the group won’t have any official duties at the convention, its members will be here with a lobbying message.

Glover Park Group is helping the country with government relations and PR.

Although the trip was planned more than three months ago, Sikharulidze said it has taken on a new level of importance since the skirmish with Russia.

“This has additional meaning now,” Sikharulidze said. “We are going to tell a little bit about the situation in Georgia. … We want to put an end to the occupation.”

The Georgian officials’ message is not limited to Republicans.

Last week, Sikharulidze led a group to Denver for the Democratic National Convention, where the Georgians met with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.), who currently chairs the Foreign Relations Committee.

“It went very well,” Sikharulidze said of the Denver trip.

But he added that he views it as a nonpartisan issue.

“Sen. Obama has expressed clear support,” he said. “And Sen. McCain has clearly expressed his support. We are very grateful to both campaigns that they understand the situation.”

The Youth Vote. When the often-gray-haired convention participants take over local restaurants and night clubs at their quadrennial gatherings, they usually raise the average age of the venues to about 60.

Not so with a Young Republican luncheon held at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Minneapolis on Monday, where pimples were more numerous than BlackBerrys.

The group, filled with a crop of some 200 potential K Streeters, packed into the restaurant where party leaders tried to jazz up the youngsters with get-out-the-vote efforts.

The hosts of the lunch included the Energy Action Coalition, a group of 46 environmental and social justice organizations; Declare Yourself, a nonpartisan effort to get 18-year-olds registered to vote; Campus Progress Action, part of the Center for American Progress Action Fund; and the Harvard University Institute of Politics.

The Young Republicans got a huge jolt by a surprise appearance of former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Originally, Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah, was slated to address the crowd of her peers, but just as she was about to take the stage, it was announced that an unplanned guest was making his way to the podium.

The enthusiasm in the audience was palpable.

Youngsters seated in a second room bolted for a view of Huckabee and crowded one another to get snapshots of the former Arkansas governor.

Huckabee noted the change in the convention’s schedule and tone because of Hurricane Gustav. But he told the group, “One of the things we don’t have to adjust is our pride in our party” and its response to the storm.

He added, to much laughter, that GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) was actually Huckabee’s “second choice” for president. Not anymore, he assured the youths. “I want you to be not just active, but fanatically involved,” he said.

He reiterated his support for McCain’s vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a former mayor of her hometown of Wasilla. She got more votes in her election for mayor of Wasilla than Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) did in his presidential bid, Huckabee quipped to the Young Republicans.

The group also heard from Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who voiced his support for Palin. “Joe Biden better be worried about those debates,” he noted.

Holy War. Religious-themed advocacy group Catholics United on Monday called on the Republican Party to modify its party platform on abortion.

The group wants the platform to include language that would seek bipartisan “common ground solutions to reduce abortions,” according to a news statement.

Catholics United Executive Director Chris Korzen said in a statement, “The Republican party’s explicit decision to turn its back on bi-partisan efforts to reduce abortion leaves the appearance that political posturing is more important than actually delivering results.”

Catholics United, which says it focuses on justice and peace, supported earlier draft language that called on all Americans, regardless of party affiliation, to support programs to reduce abortions. “We implore delegates to the Republican National Convention to demand party leaders reinstate this language as an essential component of building and maintaining a culture of life,” Korzen added in the statement.

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