K Street Files: Out of Tune?

Posted July 14, 2009 at 6:18pm

The Recording Industry Association of America is offering up its F Street offices this evening for a reception sponsored by GOP group 218, whose mission is to help fund Republican candidates to take back control of the House of Representatives.

[IMGCAP(1)]“Now is a pivotal time in our nation, a time we’ll all look back upon and remember what we were doing as the Democrats chipped away at the free market,— states an e-mail invitation to attend tonight’s event with the likes of House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas). “218 members are joining together with some of the new Members of Congress who are going to be there when we take back the Speaker’s gavel.—

While groups rent their spaces all the time, this one comes amid a nasty legislative feud between the recording industry and the nation’s broadcasters, and the partisan tone of 218 is raising some eyebrows.

The RIAA, led since 2003 by Republican Mitch Bainwol, a former aide

to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), supports legislation that would compel broadcasters to pay performance royalties to artists and record labels when radio stations play their songs.

Members of the National Association of Broadcasters — formerly led by Republican David Rehr — of course, want none of that.

Already the effort has taken some nasty turns. Rehr abruptly resigned in May because with Democrats in control in Congress, his industry was losing ground on that issue and others.

“You have to wonder what RIAA is thinking,— said one K Street Democrat who is sympathetic to the broadcasters. “The broadcasters just dumped David Rehr in part because he was perceived as a Tom DeLay Republican. Now you have Mitch Bainwol apparently launching a new kind of K Street Project to throw Democrats out of Congress.—

A spokeswoman for the RIAA said the 218 event is not affiliated with the RIAA and that the group often rents out space to groups of all kinds, including a recent event with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) for the New Democrat Coalition that toasted its new chairman, Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.).

The Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Levine School of Music also have recently used the space, the RIAA said. RIAA President Cary Sherman is a trustee of the Levine School.

Coalition’s a-Forming. Two lobbyists who focus on clients in the badly battered financial services sector are looking to launch a new coalition that would address companies’ concerns over proposed new regulatory reforms.

Samuel Baptista, who runs the Baptista Group, and the Eris Group’s Doyle Bartlett are in the earliest stages of putting the still-unnamed coalition together.

Baptista declined to talk specifics because the group is just starting, but he said that he is focusing on limited-purpose depository institutions.

Sources familiar with the effort said that Bartlett and Baptista are targeting corporations such as GE Capital that have industrial loan companies that originate loans but don’t take deposits or offer other banking services.

The Obama administration has proposed tougher regulations on ILCs, which have historically been regulated lightly compared with standard banks.

This latest coalition follows another effort by the American Financial Services Association. AFSA is trying to get a coalition off the ground based on opposition to the White House’s plan to form a consumer protection finance agency.

The group, which has already had one meeting at Toyota’s Washington office, is set to meet again Thursday, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Meta Lobbying. Shoe-leather lobbying no longer doing the trick? Nevada-based R&R Partners may have the answer. The consulting firm is elbowing its way into the branding and campaign management business, hoping to provide some competition for the traditional inside-the-Beltway firms.

The company recently launched its division R&R Persuasion, which is focused on creating multiplatform campaigns for companies.

“What ties our clients together is they are interested in policy issues and in using more than old-fashioned lobbying to affect policy,— said Mike Pieper of R&R Partners.

The company has already had some success with its branding campaigns. R&R Partners is responsible for the clean coal campaign by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

R&R worked with the coal coalition on everything from creative design to organizing the message on the ground and putting together ads and radio spots, according to Pieper.

The company also counts Mothers Against Drunk Driving and APX Alarm among its clients.

K Street Moves. David Washington, the associate director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement who has been one of the administration’s point men for the business community, has taken a position with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation as a senior fellow.

Washington, who holds a Ph.D. in forensic clinical psychology from the University of Nebraska, will focus on building information-technology-related partnerships between the public and private sector.

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