K Street Files: Soooo Good

Posted March 24, 2009 at 6:18pm

Like Play-Doh and Etch-a-Sketch, some databases are so good that you want to play with them even if you don’t know what you can make.

Such is the case with the new mapping software rolled out this week by the Foundation Center, which allows the user to track foundation grants by Congressional district.

[IMGCAP(1)] At the click of a button, users can see which nonprofits in any given Congressional district received grants from foundations, who gave the money and what it was meant for.

The Congressional district sort is a new function of the venerable foundation directory, a kind of matchmaking service between donors and donees.

The database also has an issue search function, allowing the user to pinpoint, for example, the 35 foundation grants given since 2003 to organizations in Arizona’s 5th district for work on aging issues.

Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center — which has produced the foundation directory and lots of other data about philanthropy for the past 50 years — said the group devised the mapping tool in part to respond to several Congressional offices that said they were unsure how to find nongovernmental support for constituents who came to the Member seeking help for a worthwhile charitable effort.

Steve Gunderson, president of the Council on Foundations — the trade association representing the folks in the

database — said the new data set will allow him to “share with Members the work philanthropy is doing within their own districts.—

The Foundation Center charges a fee for online access to the database, ranging from $200 to $1,300 a year, but it also maintains a K Street office where anyone can walk in and browse the database for free.

Seems like there must be something of interest in there for an enterprising young reporter.

Third Rail. After his “third way— proposal for card check legislation went over like a lead balloon with business and labor groups alike this week, Democratic operative Lanny Davis says his next step is to bring executives to town to help find a legislative sponsor for the plan.

Along with executives from Whole Foods Market Inc., Starbucks Coffee Co. and Costco Wholesale Corp., Davis on Sunday rolled out the Committee for a Level Playing Field for Union Elections, which is pushing an alternative to the Employee Free Choice Act.

Davis suggested Sunday that he had initially received positive responses from lawmakers’ offices when recently pitching the proposal, but he admitted he was surprised by some Members’ responses after the fact — particularly that of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who said in a statement that “this proposal is unacceptable.—

Although lawmakers might be scarce, Davis said companies are reaching out to join his “little committee,— which he says is taking a unique bare-bones approach in its outreach.

“We’ve decided to follow for now a new and strange model of lobbying in Washington: We’re not using numbers, and we’re not using dollars, and we’re not using grass-roots boilerplate e-mails,— he said. “We’re using an idea.—

A Local Perspective. With every general, secretary and politician in Washington, D.C., quick to give their 2 cents on U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Patton Boggs has been hired by a group of Afghan Americans to add the perspective of local Afghan people to the debate. The new organization, the Campaign for a US-Afghanistan Partnership, launched Monday, just in time for President Barack Obama’s anticipated announcement of his Afghanistan strategy this Friday.

“Every think tank in town has put out a paper on the Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review,— said Robert Kapla, an associate in the international practice at Patton Boggs who is leading the account. “What we want to do is provide the Afghan perspective.—

The organization of U.S. and Afghan citizens is the brainchild of Hamed Wardak, an Afghan American businessman and the son of Afghanistan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak. The group plans to hold meetings with Members of Congress and release a white paper later this year.

K Street Pound. The old adage that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog, is ringing true for Washington lobbyists feeling a bit muzzled themselves these days.

First came news from the White House on Friday that lobbyists cannot meet or speak with executive branch officials regarding specific stimulus funding requests.

Now comes the announcement this week from Capitol Hill of bipartisan legislation that would prohibit candidates from taking campaign contributions from lobbyists.

“I’m talking to more and more lobbyists every day who say I’m just not giving anymore,’— said Paul Miller, co-founder of Miller Wenhold Capitol Strategies, a government relations and grass-roots advocacy firm. “Enough is enough.—

The Fair Elections Now Act, expected to be introduced Thursday by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) and a yet-to-be-named Republican Congressman, would establish a public finance system that would reward candidates who raise small donations from their home states, cap contributions at $100 and ban donations from federal lobbyists for candidates who opt-in to the system.

“I wish the American public had a good view of what a fundraiser really is,— said Dave Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists and the other half of Miller Wenhold. “It’s not tuxes and chandeliers. It’s Swedish meatballs and bad beer.—

“We go there as a messenger for our clients — the teachers, farmers, court reporters — who can’t be in Washington.—

K Street Moves. Verizon Wireless director Paul Nash, a former aide to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, departed the office this month after eight years to join the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., where he is deputy to the chairman for external affairs.

Joining the office is Mark Rubin, who moved to Verizon Wireless in January when the company acquired his employer, Altell. Rubin was legislative director for Johnson when he served in the House.

• Roy A. Bernardi, most recently chief operating officer of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has joined the information technology firm CGI Group Inc. as vice president for consulting services. Bernardi was also a former mayor of Syracuse, N.Y.

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