K Street Files: Handicapping Specter’s Staff

Posted May 8, 2009 at 6:19pm

Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) isn’t the only one dealing with the fallout of his decision to change political parties.

[IMGCAP(1)]With Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) taking over as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the future of several members of Specter’s committee staff is in question.

So far, no committee staff have publicly announced their departure.

“The transition is ongoing, and it takes some time for things like this to shake out,— a Senate aide familiar with the situation said.

Still, that hasn’t stopped lobbyists from playing the parlor game of handicapping which staffers could jump downtown.

Top prospects include Specter’s Judiciary Committee chief counsel Nick Rossi; Ryan Triplette, chief counsel for patent reform and intellectual property; Ivy Johnson, an antitrust specialist and civil law attorney; Elizabeth Hays, chief counsel for judicial nominations; and Chris Gindlesperger, communications director for the committee, according to several lobbyists.

“I think they are terrific,— said Mike O’Neill, former Senate Judiciary Committee staff director, who is now associate professor at George Mason University School of Law, of the Specter aides. “Obviously, I’m very concerned about them and that they get the best jobs they can.—

Dealers Go on Offensive. The National Automobile Dealers Association is aggressively pushing back on Capitol Hill after taking a look at GM and Chrysler’s proposal for axing thousands of dealerships.

NADA is launching an ad campaign this week with the group’s president criticizing President Barack Obama’s task force for demanding such drastic cuts.

The ads, which will run Tuesday in publications such as the Washington Post and Automotive News, coincide with a fly-in of more than 150 dealers the association has put together.

The plan calls for closing about 2,600 of the 6,200 GM dealerships by the end of 2010. Chrysler proposed shutting down between 700 and 800 dealerships in its bankruptcy proceedings.

NADA says shuttering those dealership so quickly would result in 187,000 employees losing their jobs.

The industry understands there needs to be cuts, but, especially in the instance of GM, it is too severe, according to NADA Chairman John McEleney.

McEleney added: “Our objective is to talk to Members of Congress to hopefully have some influence on the White House and decision-makers at Treasury and the president, himself, to make this more of an orderly process that won’t result in rapid unemployment.—

NADA isn’t the only auto-invested group barnstorming Capitol Hill over the proposal.

The United Steelworkers, the Alliance for American Manufacturing and the Mayors and Municipalities Automotive Coalition are sponsoring an 11-state, 34-city “Keep It Made in America— bus tour today.

The groups are looking to highlight the 7.2 million jobs that are dependent on the U.S. auto supply, but are not related to the assembly of vehicles.

Workers from the bus tour, labor leaders, mayors, economists and others, are following up the tour with a May 19 lobbying effort on Capitol Hill.

Getting a Rise Out of PhRMA. As if the pharmaceutical industry didn’t have enough on its lobbying plate, now it has to contend with a bill that would block TV ads for erectile dysfunction pills during prime-time.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) has introduced a bill that would prohibit the broadcasting of such ads during family viewing from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. because they deal with indecent material.

Moran’s spokesman Austin Durrer said the Congressman’s office hasn’t heard a peep out of the drug industry yet. “They haven’t contacted our office,— he said. But feedback from other Members and constituents has been positive, he added.

“With V-chips, parents can control programs, but not the ads,— Durrer said.

But Jim Davidson, executive director of the Advertising Coalition, said the pharmaceutical industry’s guidelines suggest that erectile dysfunction ads should only air on programs where at least 90 percent of the audience is 18 or older.

“The industry’s commitment to doing the right thing is very strong,— said Davidson, whose coalition members include the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America as well as broadcasters, newspapers and cable companies.

The ads, he said, encourage men to visit their doctors, often getting diagnosed with high blood pressure or other health problems. “Potentially saving the lives of millions of Americans should be considered,— he said.

Pumping Up China. The American Chamber of Commerce People’s Republic of China is storming Capitol Hill this week, pressing lawmakers to support U.S. business in China.

AmCham-China, which recently brought on BGR Group to help its lobbying and PR efforts, has more than 2,700 individual members from over 1,200 companies.

The group is set to meet with more than 50 lawmakers, asking them to support the U.S.-China Competitiveness agenda to support U.S.-China relations.

“We want to push for an environment that encourages and stimulates trade and keeps the markets open for trade and investment in both countries,— said John Watkins of Cummins Investment and chairman of the board of governors of Am-Cham.

K Street Moves. Mary Beth Stanton, a one-time legislative aide to Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), has signed on to Heather Podesta + Partners as a lobbyist. Stanton also was a legislative assistant to Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), where she focused on transportation issues and is a former managing director with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

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