K Street Files: Exxon Turning Blue?

Posted January 30, 2009 at 5:59pm

Oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. has long been known for its Republican bent, but it appears that change is in the air.

[IMGCAP(1)]The company is replacing Dan Nelson, its Washington office head, with Democratic donor Terri Fariello, said Exxon Mobil spokesman Alan Jeffers.

Nelson is retiring after 32 years with Exxon. He has headed the Washington office since 2004.

Fariello, who is relocating from the oil company’s Irving, Texas, office, maxed out to both President Barack Obama and to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for their presidential bids, according to Federal Election Commission records.

That certainly differs from Exxon’s own political giving.

The company’s political action committee donated nearly $550,000 to Republicans in the 2008 cycle, compared with $66,500 to Democrats, according to CQ MoneyLine.

Thanks, but No Thanks. Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) gave back $10,000 to Swiss bank UBS’ political action committee in December, according to year-end campaign finance records filed this week.

A grand jury indictment last November implicated Raoul Weil, a UBS investment banker, in a sophisticated tax-dodging scheme that used offshore bank accounts to help “United States clients commit tax evasion.”

The indictment also fingered other bank managers and executives, but they are not named.

“I gave back the money because a high-level official at the bank was indicted for helping Americans avoid paying taxes,” Frank said on Friday.

Palmetto Roots. Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, a South Carolina law firm that traces its roots back to 1887, has finally opened a Washington outpost in the office of D.C. lobbyist and South Carolina native Mike Tongour.

Tongour, who runs his own lobby shop, the TCH Group, will become a special counsel at the firm, which morphed into its present 140-plus attorneys in 2001 after a series of mergers over the past 20 years among Greenville, Charleston and Columbia law firms.

“They have a wide variety of clients with interests in Washington, and now they have someone on the ground here,” said Tongour, who was chief counsel to then-Senate Minority Whip Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) in the early 1990s.

“Likewise, I’ll be promoting legal services provided by them in South Carolina.”

Opening Salvo. Organizing for America, the new grass-roots lobbying group created from the remains of President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, is asking its millions of members to host house parties to drum up support for the White House-backed stimulus bill, according to an e-mail sent last week by the organization.

“The economic crisis is deepening, but President Obama and members of Congress have proposed a recovery plan that will put more than 3 million Americans back to work,” reads the e-mail.

“You can learn more about how the plan will help your community by organizing an Economic Recovery House Meeting,” the e-mail continues. “Join thousands of people across the country who are coming together to watch a special video about the recovery plan. Invite your friends and neighbors to watch the video with you and have a conversation about your community’s economic situation.

The message concludes: “Don’t worry if you’ve never hosted a house meeting before — we’ll make sure you have everything you need to make it a success.”

Mitch Stewart, Organizing for America’s executive director, signed the e-mail, the first sent since the group was formed weeks ago.

The organization — housed within the Democratic National Committee — is the brainchild of former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and will attempt to push the new president’s agenda on lawmakers.

Korea Comes a Calling. While it’s unlikely President Barack Obama will make trade a centerpiece of his administration, that hasn’t stopped South Korea from amping up its Congressional offensive to get the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement passed.

The deal has languished since June 2007 without Congressional action.

Now the country is bringing on additional lobbying firepower, hiring Parven Pomper Strategies Inc. to meet with Congress and the executive branch on the issue.

South Korea already has Arent Fox and Scribe Strategies & Advisors on retainer.

Scott Parven, who is the lead lobbyist on the firm’s account, will be assisted by Van McMurtry, Ali Lapp and Melissa Wier. The firm’s six-month $120,000 contract lasts through June.

This is the firm’s second foreign country lobbying client; it also represents Panama.

Parven declined to comment regarding the representation.

K Street Moves. Ryan Guthrie, chief of staff to Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), is returning to the private sector, joining the Bockorny Group. Guthrie, who spent a decade as an aide to Hill, did a two-year stint as a lobbyist at mCapitol Management before returning to Capitol Hill in 2007. He joins the firm as vice president.

• Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart is continuing to expand, bringing on Justin McCarthy, former legislative affairs special assistant during the Bush administration.

McCarthy, a former lobbyist at Pfizer, will be joining another recent firm hire, John Michael Gonzalez. Gonzalez joined the lobby shop late last month after serving as chief of staff to Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.).

• The Hispanic Lobbyists Association unveiled its leadership for 2009 last week: UPS’ Leo Diaz will be the group’s new president, while DLA Piper’s Cristina Antelo will be vice president. Medtronic Inc.’s Rosemary Garza will be the group’s new treasurer, while Ami Sanchez, a local lawyer, will be the organization’s new secretary.

T.R. Goldman contributed to this report.

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