K Street Files: Palin’s Peeps

Posted September 2, 2008 at 6:52pm

Palin’s Peeps. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) may have relied on contract lobbyists as mayor, but as governor, she’s taken a different tack, primarily using longtime Alaska state lobbyist John Katz to get business done in Washington.

[IMGCAP(1)]Katz, director of state and federal relations and special counsel to the governor, has long been involved in Alaskan politics, working for six Alaskan governors from both parties, including Democrats Bill Sheffield, Steve Cowper and Tony Knowles, Independent Wally Hickel, and Republicans Frank Murkowski and Palin.

Instead of keeping a cadre of lobbyists on retainer, Katz said the state hires shops on a case-by-case basis primarily on technical issues. In the past, Alaska has worked with Morrison & Foerster on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues and Crowell & Moring when telecom issues have arisen.

“The governor acts through this office,” said Katz, who got his start in Alaska politics working for Rep. Howard Pollock (R) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R) before starting to work for the state in 1979. “Generally we feel that Alaskans are our own best advocates. The governor prefers to advocate that way.”

The state does have Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates on retainer to counsel it on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The firm’s billings were less than $15,000 during the first half of 2008.

Still, Palin is no stranger to Washington.

Since being elected in 2006, Palin has played an active role in the National Governors Association, first as vice chairwoman and now chairwoman of the natural resources committee. She has also worked with the Alaska Congressional delegation on energy issues and contacted Bush administration officials on the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, Katz said.

And Palin does know her way around lobbyists. As mayor of Wasilla, she helped hire Steven Silver, a former Stevens staffer at the Alaskan law firm Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh, who helped bring earmarks to Wasilla.

In 2006, lawyers and lobbyists raised more than $10,000 for her successful gubernatorial race in Alaska, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

As Palin steps into her next role as Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s running mate, should she look to downtown there will be plenty of lobbyists with Alaska ties that could advise the Alaskan and help fill McCain’s campaign coffers.

Those lobbyists include former Stevens chief of staff Mitch Rose of Mitch Rose Strategic Consulting; Wally Burnett, former Stevens staffer and Republican staff director of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation; and ex-Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.), a former Stevens chief of staff.

“Certainly I’ve been supportive of her candidacy and I will do whatever I can to help,” said Jack Ferguson, a former aide for Stevens and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), of Jack Ferguson Associates.

Asian Power. Celebrating their growing numbers in the Republican Party, the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote hosted a kickoff reception at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis on Monday afternoon.

Many parties across the Twin Cities took a bit of a somber note as companies and lobbyists tried to temper the festive party-going with the expected destruction of Hurricane Gustav.

The APIA Vote party was no different. Sponsored in conjunction with AT&T, the party had displays noting that attendees could send a text message to donate to the Red Cross. Although party planners struggled with whether to continue to have receptions, AT&T’s Michael Balmoris said the company wanted to move forward with the reception while still being respectful of the hurricane.

“The company has sponsored parties at multiple conventions,” said Balmoris, a lobbyist at AT&T. “We view it twofold: First it’s about being a good corporate citizen, and we also have a bunch of products that we are showcasing.”

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