K Street Files: Law and Order

Posted October 27, 2009 at 6:24pm

For all the stigma of scandal and lawlessness in lobby land, an indictment is actually rare, especially when one of the charges is failure to register for a foreign client. But on Tuesday the Justice Department announced charges against Robert Cabelly of C/R International for his alleged work for the government of Sudan.

[IMGCAP(1)]Cabelly faces eight counts, including four for violating Sudanese sanctions regulations. He has also been indicted for acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power — a charge typically used for spies.

“We have charged a large number of those cases, but the majority of them have been in the spy context or covert actors,— said a Justice Department spokesman. He had no tally on the number of cases involving actual government relations types.

Kenneth Gross, a lobbying ethics expert at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, said that such cases “are unusual, few and far between,— especially for lobbyists.

Letter of Apology. The advocacy group Public Knowledge has sent an apology to two civil rights groups after the minority organizations took offense at comments made in the increasingly volatile net neutrality debate.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership wrote to Public Knowledge on Friday that “we want to express our deep indignation over the offensive assertions made— in a recent blog post by the group. The post said that minority groups “seem to land on policies that hurt their constituencies.—

Public Knowledge’s Gigi Sohn responded on Friday, saying that her group “does not support any suggestion that ‘minorities are easily duped and uninformed.’— She added that she “unequivocally repudiates such statements.—

The net neutrality debate pits telecom and cable interests against Internet companies, which are lobbying for rules that would prevent phone and cable companies from discriminating against certain types of online content. Neither the NAACP nor HTTP returned calls seeking comment. Public Knowledge refused to comment beyond its letter.

Free Ride? FreedomWorks has certainly caused a stir recently with its massive grass-roots campaign against health care reform and taxes, but don’t expect to get any insight into the group’s operations by its lobbying disclosure forms.

The conservative nonprofit, which is headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), reported spending less than $5,000 on federal lobbying in its third-quarter report to Congress.

Rob Jordan, vice president of federal and state campaigns, said the dearth of spending is because FreedomWorks rarely has “staff spend a lot of time doing a lot of direct lobbying on the Hill.—

None of the 15 D.C.-based employees is registered as a lobbyist.

But that doesn’t mean FreedomWorks is planning to slow down its efforts. The group is already turning its attention to the upcoming midterm elections in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Arkansas and Indiana.

“We’re going to be more involved in these midterm elections than in any other elections,— Jordan said.

The Day After Tomorrow. With an overhaul of the nation’s health care system apparently on track, Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said on Tuesday that organized labor is teeing up executive pay caps and other proposed tweaks to bailed-out portions of the financial sector.

“The next big campaign you’re going to see is financial regulator reform,— Burger said in an interview. “Seventy-four percent of voters believe big banks and Wall Street are the cause of the economic collapse. People are fed up. … There’s an anger out there.— Burger’s comments came as the SEIU and other labor-backed groups protested a Chicago meeting of the American Bankers Association.

Rush to the Courthouse. The American Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers, is planning to ding the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today by releasing a report about defective corporate products on the same day the business group is hosting a legal reform summit.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by Roll Call, lists numerous examples of companies that knowingly released products that ended up harming people. It describes the case of a company that discovers rodent droppings are contaminating its food products but orders them recooked and sold anyway. Then there is the example of a company that discovers its bulletproof vests are defective but still sells them to law enforcement agencies and the military.

In its news release, the trial lawyers group said such cases underscore its contention that business groups such as the chamber are wrong to advocate curbing civil justice remedies in the court. The AAJ took particular glee in pointing out what it called the “hypocritical— stance of the chamber for filing a civil complaint in federal district court Monday against the activist group Yes Men, whose members tried to impersonate chamber officials claiming the group had reversed its opposition to climate change legislation.

“The Chamber has no problem using the very same legal system when it advances its own agenda,— the AAJ statement said.

Lisa Rickard, president of the chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, conceded that some lawsuits are necessary.

“We agree that when an organization is impersonated and lies are told in their name, a lawsuit should go forward,— Rickard said in a statement.

K Street Moves. The Dewey Square Group has added Lisa Mushaw, most recently managing partner of Millennium Tek and a one-time staffer for Al Gore, as a principal in its state, local and multicultural practice.

“Lisa enjoys an excellent profile amongst a wide variety of key Washington decision-makers and thought leaders, and has already proven herself to be a vitally important member of our organization,— Minyon Moore, head of the state, local and multicultural practice, said in a statement.

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