K Street Files: Luck of the Irish

Posted March 3, 2009 at 6:35pm

What’s a fundraiser to do early in the cycle when a recession hits? Find the nearest holiday and throw a bash.

[IMGCAP(1)]Fourteen House Democrats are throwing events March 17, according to a recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising list.

The fetes, which happen to be on St. Patrick’s Day, includes several green-themed parties, including Rep. Phil Hare’s (Ill.) St. Paddy’s Day Breakfast at the Phoenix Park Hotel, Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (Pa.) luncheon at the Dubliner and Rep. Mike Honda’s (Calif.) St. Patrick’s Day reception.

Rep. Joe Crowley is definitely stretching the “Erin go bragh— spirit a little further than most lawmakers.

The New York Democrat is holding a “Sushi & Shamrocks— event at the Bartlett & Bendell Townhouse, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Retreats No More. With swanky retreats causing so much bad publicity these days, canceling them outright might seem the easiest way to avoid bad press and their often six-figure expense.

Not so for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

The law firm had scheduled its 2009 retreat at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. It is still feeling the pain of its cancellation.

The hotel, which is known for hosting dignitaries and royalty, filed a breach of contract suit against Akin Gump in San Diego Superior Court on Feb. 11. The suit, which claims the hotel is entitled to $385,950 in damages as a cancellation fee, was first reported on CourthouseNews.

“We were negotiating in good faith for multiple events at the Del Coronado,— said Jim Leary, chief financial officer at Akin Gump. “We are disappointed they decided to file a lawsuit. We will defend ourselves in the suit.—

The dispute is just one recent example of companies backing out of long-standing retreat plans, something the travel industry is taking pains to stop.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association and the U.S. Travel Association, among others, have issued guidelines on acceptable travel practices for companies: One suggestion is for companies hosting events with a cost of more than $75,000 to write a detailed report identifying its specific purpose.

The groups are also launching a “Meetings Mean Business— ad campaign later this week and are taking their message to Capitol Hill, sending a letter to President Barack Obama and Members of Congress today.

“It’s one of those vexing issues,— said Marlene Colucci, executive vice president for policy at the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “We are facing significant job losses because of the economy. So irresponsible rhetoric only exacerbates it.—

Réspondez S’il Vous Plaît. Like a nervous high-schooler, the downtown business community on Tuesday continued to wait for invitations to a White House health care summit planned for Thursday.

“We know that it’s happening [and] we’d like to go,— Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association lobbyist Alissa Fox said on Tuesday. “We represent 102 million people.—

And Fox apparently was not alone. According to an administration spokesman, the White House as of Tuesday afternoon had yet to finalize its list of possible summit attendees, which they assured would include a broad spectrum of business interests and advocacy groups.

“As the president said, we’re going to bring people from all sides of the debate,— the Obama spokesman said.

New Telecom Chief. President Barack Obama is nominating Julius Genachowski to be the next Federal Communications Commission chairman, the White House announced on Tuesday.

“I can think of no one better than Julius Genachowski to serve as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,— Obama said in a statement. “He will bring to the job diverse and unparalleled experience in communications and technology, with two decades of accomplishment in the private sector and public service.—

Genachowski, a former FCC lawyer and Supreme Court clerk, is a technology executive with close ties to Obama’s political circles in Chicago. A one-time law clerk to Clinton administration lawyer and former federal judge Abner Mikva — one of Obama’s earliest political mentors in the Windy City — Genachowski graduated from Harvard Law School and was once a House aide for now-Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Considered a proponent of “net-neutrality— policies championed by Internet giants such as Google, Genachowski’s nomination, long expected, also has been widely praised by television broadcasters.

Seeing Red. Reversing a recent K Street trend, the Brunswick Group has added another Republican to its previously all-Democratic Washington office, while also bringing in a key operative from President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

The corporate communications firm announced Monday it has brought on Michele Davis, a top Treasury official from the Bush administration, as a partner, and veteran Democratic campaign operative Julie Andreeff Jensen as a director.

The announcement comes on the heels of a hiring spree for the London-based firm, which has seen its Washington office double in size to 15 since January.

Davis marks the second Republican hire for Brunswick, joining Jim Wilkinson, chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who joined as managing partner in January.

“This was a determination by Brunswick that Washington was an important place to invest in,— said Hilary Rosen, Brunswick managing partner and head of the Washington office, who herself joined the firm in January.

O’Brien’s Legacy. Lawrence O’Brien III, head of the OB-C Group, is continuing his tenure as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s Legacy Circle for the 2010 cycle. The Legacy Circle, which launched on 2006, is for people who have individually maxed out for five consecutive years.

K Street Moves. Duberstein Group is welcoming Dan Meyer back into the fold. After 10 years with the firm, Meyer departed last February to join the Bush administration as the White House’s top liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives. He will be a senior vice president.

• Joe Farren, spokesman for the CTIA, is joining Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. Farren joins as vice president of the global public affairs practice in Washington.

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