K Street Files: Best Friends

Posted June 12, 2009 at 5:01pm

The National Federation of Independent Business and health insurance companies don’t always get along. Small businesses routinely gripe about out-of-reach premiums for their “small group— market.

[IMGCAP(1)]But the two camps are united against legislative proposals that would include a public plan option in health care reform.

That said, NFIB reps are not happy that a lobbyist for insurance companies has been trying to gin up small-business opposition to the public option.

“I have some strong concerns with them using us as a blocker,— NFIB’s Stephanie Cathcart said. “Clearly, we oppose a public plan, but we oppose it for our own reasons and our own merits. If they’re trying to hide behind us, then they need to step up to the plate and give us some reforms in our market.—

She added, “I think the insurers are trying to use us because they don’t want to really address the reforms we’re asking for, which are reforms in the small group market.—

The NFIB is riled up over a letter that is circulating via e-mail from Madison, Wis., lobbyist William McCoshen of Capitol Consultants Inc.

According to the e-mail obtained by Roll Call, “Blue Cross is trying to generate as much grassroots opposition as possible within all 50 states,— McCoshen wrote.

A sample of the letter’s text that small businesses were asked to send reads, “Our state’s small business owners feel first hand on their businesses’ bottom lines the ever-increasing costs of health care.—

It concludes, though, that a public plan “undermines health care delivery system reforms that are aimed at controlling rising costs, and it subjects health care coverage to the unpredicted political whims of Congressional changes.—

McCoshen did not return calls seeking comment.

Kelly K. Miller, a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association spokeswoman, said in an e-mail statement: “BCBSA strongly supports responsible healthcare reform this year. We continue to reach out to our partners and other stakeholders across the country, including consumers, employers, and small businesses to build support for comprehensive, sustainable reforms.—

A Committee Course. Call it the updated version of the three-martini lunch. Lobbyist and Democratic fundraiser Heather Podesta is hoping she and fellow donors will feast on a buffet of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) committee assignments this Wednesday.

According to a recent e-mail sent from Podesta, founder of Heather Podesta + Partners, a June 17 luncheon fundraiser for the California Democrat at Charlie Palmer Steak will include a prix fixe menu of “the Select Committee on Intelligence for the first course followed by your choice of Appropriations, Judiciary, or Rules committees.— Feinstein is chairman of the Intelligence panel and sits on the other three.

Podesta, who declined comment, is known for creative fundraising approaches in what is shaping up to be an increasingly hectic fundraising season.

The total for the “meal,— the invite says, is $2,500 for political action committee sponsors and $1,000 for individuals.

And what, no third course?

Trade Deficit. The Livingston Group has signed on to shepherd visitors from the Korean company AK Capital, according to a recent Foreign Agents Registration Act filing.

The lobby shop is getting paid $20,000 a month to represent Korean visitors and introduce them “to members and staff of the legislative branch, officials in the executive branch, and various executives in industry and appropriate private sector experts in US-Republic of Korea relations,— according to the contract. In particular, Livingston will be guiding a retired Republic of Korea military official around D.C. to talk about security issues.

Livingston isn’t the only one signing up foreign clients.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council also recently brought on Venable.

The council is paying Venable $240,000 for one year of services with 81-year-old former Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) and 41-year-old Raymond Shepherd handling the account for the firm.

Venable will be putting together meetings to aid Hong Kong in its economic and trade interests in the United States, according to the FARA filing.

Anna Palmer contributed to this report.

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