K Street Files: Working the Recess

Posted April 3, 2009 at 5:46pm

As lawmakers head back to their districts for the Easter recess, so too are many of Washington’s influence-brokers looking outside the Beltway.

[IMGCAP(1)]AARP is taking on one of the most comprehensive pushes, focusing largely on health care reform.

“We think the next few weeks are going to be incredibly important to passing health care legislation in 2009,— said Jim Dau of AARP. “We’re taking full advantage that lawmakers are going to be back home in our districts to do what we do best, to make sure our members have their voices heard and help demonstrate the urgency of passing health care legislation.—

In addition to doing AARP-specific events, the trade group is partnering with members of the Divided We Fail coalition, including the Service Employees International Union and the National Federation of Independent Business, to host a forum on health care reform with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in Mason City, Iowa, on April 9.

The coalition is also doing town hall meetings with Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), and tele-town hall meetings in New York with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and Reps. Anthony Weiner (D) and Joe Crowley (D).

In addition to the health care coalition events, NFIB is doing outreach to its members about previously scheduled events and having them call lawmakers’ district offices to voice their opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, according to spokesman Mike Diegel.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions is also getting in on the recess grass-roots lobbying.

NAFCU is continuing its push to keep credit card interchange fees, arguing that reduced fees would have a disproportionately large impact on credit unions, which are often smaller than banks. The NAFCU grass-roots effort, which is responding to a strong push by convenience stores and other retailers to curtail interchange fees, will target House Financial Services Committee members such as Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Travis Childers (D-Miss.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) and Walt Minnick (D-Idaho).

The trade association is asking members to put in calls and send letters, and the group is encouraging them to visit lawmakers at town hall meetings to thank them for supporting credit unions, according to Dan Berger of the NAFCU.

Drama, and Jobs. With the Patent Reform Act moving one step closer to the Senate floor after its approval last week by the Judiciary Committee, the plethora of coalitions behind the long-running debate are sticking to the latest talking points for K Street and special interest groups alike: jobs, jobs, jobs.

“Patents are so critical to the U.S. economy and to creating U.S. jobs, it’s absolutely imperative that we get this reform right,— said Brian Pomper, executive director of the Innovation Alliance, a coalition of entrepreneurial companies, in reaction to the committee vote.

“For our companies, there is a direct line between research, patents and jobs,— said Bill Mashek, spokesman for the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, a group that represents corporations such as General Electric and 3M.

The bill was approved in a dramatic 15-4 vote that saw one of its original sponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), vote against it, and the other, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), say he preferred the bill’s original language on the most contentious issue of the debate: how to award damages in infringement lawsuits.

“The damages provisions in the bill as written were projected to create 100,000 new jobs,— said David DiMartino, spokesman for the Coalition for Patent Fairness, representing the technology companies that strongly supported the original Leahy-Hatch bill. “We’d like to see the job creation impact of the bill reinstated.—

The compromise language, brokered by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), would create a “gatekeeper— role for judges, allowing them to decide what evidence to present to juries.

A House version of the bill has yet to be voted out of the Judiciary Committee.

Despite the debate, the Senate compromise was enough of what coalitions on each side wanted to move the legislation out of the committee, where it had been stalled for weeks, and to turn their attention to the Senate floor.

Recognizing the tough road still ahead in brokering amendments and reaching the 60-vote threshold, both sides are desperate to stay on the Senate’s agenda, hence their return to the topic-du-jour in Washington: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Join the Union. Katie Marisic has been hired as associated director of political affairs at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

Marisic was finance director for Rep. Christopher Carney’s (D-Pa.) first victory in 2006 and has been running her own finance shop in Pennsylvania since then. She also helped launch the campaign of Rabbi and Harvard professor Dennis Shulman, the Democratic nominee in New Jersey’s 5th district in 2008.

K Street Moves. A trio of public affairs operatives are forming Sulgrave Partners. Software company CEO Mike Long, former senior vice president for communications at the Financial Services Forum, Taylor Griffin, and Jack Dennison, founder of the learning company FunnelBrain are the firm’s three principals.

• The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has scored two new hires, Marc Schloss and Stephen Schatz. Schloss, who most recently worked at the Center for American Progress, comes aboard as director of federal government affairs. Schatz, who was deputy press secretary for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is the new director of media relations for the trade group.

Shira Toeplitz contributed to this report.

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