K Street Files: On Second Thought

Posted October 20, 2009 at 6:26pm

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who made his initial fortune during the Internet boom a decade ago, is now backing away from an anti-net-neutrality letter that he signed last week.

[IMGCAP(1)]Polis began soliciting co-signers Tuesday for a new letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski that asks the agency “to join us in our effort to ensure that it remains an open-access network— when the FCC begins writing rules this week on the contentious issue.

“We believe that the proposed rules enhance the FCC’s historic commitment to competition and innovation, and are necessary to ensure that internet users can go to any legal web site and access any legal online service that they choose,— Polis writes in the draft. “The internet is one of humanity’s greatest cultural achievements and the most powerful infrastructure for free speech and innovation.—

Polis’ apparent change of heart is in marked contrast to an anti-net-neutrality letter that he signed off on last week along with 71 other House Members. And the new letter comes as telephone companies and cable providers continue to lobby regulators and lawmakers for more authority to manage their networks. Meanwhile, online retailers and search engines such as Google say it’s just a ploy by Internet service providers to eventually make a play for their customers.

“We write to express both our hopes and concerns related to upcoming [FCC] proceedings focused on the deployment and use of broadband networks,— Members wrote in the first letter. “As the FCC embarks on its much-anticipated rule making addressing the subject of ‘net neutrality,’ we therefore urge the commission to carefully consider the full range of potential consequences that government action may have on network investment.—

According to his financial disclosure statement, Polis’ net worth is estimated at least $71 million, a handsome fortune derived from his early stakes in two online enterprises.

Deal Me In. A coalition representing scorned automobile retailers is forking over big money to help repeal the closure of General Motors and Chrysler dealerships.

Since first registering with the Secretary of the Senate in July, the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights has paid $320,000 to the law firm and lobby shop Arent Fox. A call to the firm was not returned by press time Tuesday, but Arent Fox lobbyists are pushing long-shot legislative efforts to help nearly 2,000 dealers who lost their lots as part of the automakers’ bankruptcy deal last summer.

IGR Going Sheik. International Government Relations Group is expanding its foreign clientele, adding Sheik Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi of the United Arab Emirates to its client roster. The IGR, which is headed by former Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Texas), will be setting up meetings for the outspoken critic of Iran with government officials to “help develop a positive relationship— with the U.S., according to the firm’s lobbying registration.

Al-Qasimi is the eldest son of Sheik Saqr bin Mohammad al-Qasimi, the current ruler of Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. In addition to an initial $50,000 payment, the IGR is on a $30,000 monthly retainer until March. Sandlin did not return a call for comment.

This isn’t the first time Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi has gone to Washington, D.C. Since 2008, BKSH & Associates Worldwide, now Prime Policy Group, had been representing al-Qasimi. The firm reported collecting more than $150,000 from the client during the first half of 2009, but after President Barack Obama was elected, he decided to go with the more left-leaning IGR. California Strategies also continues to represent him, according to the firm’s most recent report filed in June. Al-Qasimi paid California Strategies $111,500 for six months of work.

Night Out. K Streeters turned out in force for the annual Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s staff-driven fundraising dinner. Held at the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel, former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) of Breaux Lott Leadership Group, Democratic power broker Tommy Boggs of Patton Boggs and Jim May, head of the Air Transport Association, were in attendance.

The event raised nearly $350,000, according to lobbyists there. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and his chief of staff, Terry Lierman, a former lobbyist who helped organize the event, both spoke. Dan Turton, the original Congressional staffer tapped to raise money for the event and who is now deputy director of White House legislative affairs, made an appearance.

Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti’s David Thomas, Paul Thornell of Citigroup, Peter Muller of Intel and Libby Greer of Cauthen Forbes & Williams also joined in the fun.

K Street Moves. Agriculture veteran Vernie Hubert is joining Cornerstone Government Affairs. Hubert, a longtime professional staffer on the House Agriculture Committee, most recently served on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

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