K Street Files: Tort Battles

Posted April 28, 2009 at 5:45pm

Remember Mom’s advice to always read the fine print? The 65 organizations in the Fair Arbitration Now Coalition do, and they are releasing a new poll today showing widespread public support for legislation that would ban the fine print that ensnares consumers in mandatory binding arbitration in everything from credit card bills to cell phone contracts.

[IMGCAP(1)]The coalition, led by Public Citizen and the American Association for Justice, supports the Arbitration Fairness Act, which would prohibit corporations from forcing consumers into arbitration. At a press conference today in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), will join more than 50 consumers, employees and advocates who have experienced being forced into arbitration against their will.

The advocates at the press conference will probably want to skip the afternoon matinee at their local theater.

That’s where the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform will begin running four short films before feature movies as part of their national “Faces of Lawsuit Abuse— campaign.

The films, running throughout the month of May, are part of a multimillion-dollar national TV, Internet and radio ad campaign that the chamber has launched to highlight the issue of lawsuit abuse and to oppose the type of anti-arbitration legislation that the Fair Arbitration Now Coalition supports.

The films will run in select theaters in Washington, D.C., and a handful of state capitals. One theater in D.C. where the films will run: the Regal Cinemas Gallery Place in Chinatown, right across the street from the headquarters of the American Association for Justice, natch.

Shoe Me Politics. Show Me, the political action committee chaired by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), hopes a new Web site and a new committee will show small-business owners how to take a stand in Washington.

The Web site, showmesmallbusiness.com, and the committee were launched last week to organize small-business owners against what organizers see as administration proposals — including the Employee Free Choice Act, health care reform and increased taxes — that are unfair and anti-small-business.

“I am very concerned that this administration does not understand small businesses,— said Graves, ranking member on the House Small Business Committee.

“Small-business owners need to stand up and fight or a lot of new businesses simply will not make it,— he added.

The Show Me Small Business group will support candidates who believe in smaller government and small-business philosophy.

Show Me was formed by Graves in 2002 and gave $8,600 to Republican House candidates in the 2008 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“Small-business owners spend their time running their businesses,— said Fred Shumate, a spokesman for the new committee. “We want to give them a voice in Washington and help support elected officials and candidates helpful to their issues.—

The Show Me Small Business Web site includes an issues section to highlight legislation and news affecting small businesses and also allows small-business owners to join the site and submit their own stories.

Of course, also featured on the site is the donation page.

Sternhell Goes His Own Way. After a little more than a year with the financial services-focused lobby shop Cypress Advocacy, Alex Sternhell is hanging out a shingle.

Sternhell, who worked for Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) for just less than 10 years, most recently as deputy staff director, is forming the Sternhell Group.

Sternhell, who left Cypress earlier this month, has not yet registered anyone but is in negotiations with several potential clients. He declined to comment about the move.

Cypress Advocacy, which was formed by Patrick Cave, counts the American Insurance Association, PricewaterhouseCoopers and U.S. Bank among its clients, according to recently filed Senate lobbying disclosure records.

K Street Moves. Sidley Austin has brought on David Hill, a former Bush administration energy official, as a partner and co-head of the firm’s Washington-based global energy practice.

Hill, who started Monday, served in the Department of Energy from 2002 to 2009, most recently as general counsel. His arrival comes on the heels of Peter Goodloe, who started in March as a counsel in the Food and Drug Administration, health care, and public policy and government affairs practices.

Goodloe joins the firm after a longtime stint as legislative counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

• Covington & Burling added Kurt Wimmer as a partner. Wimmer, who most recently served as senior vice president and general counsel of Gannett, will focus on expanding Covington’s digital media presence.

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