K Street Files: Damage Control

Posted November 3, 2009 at 5:16pm

As Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) continues his investigation into forged letters opposing the House climate change bill, few people have risen to defend Jack Bonner, founder of the grass-roots consulting firm where the falsified letters originated. But now Bonner has found an unusual ally — American University.

[IMGCAP(1)]The university’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies is placing an advertisement today in Roll Call defending Bonner, a part-time instructor at AU.

“Thank you Jack Bonner for over 15 years of teaching excellence,— the ad reads. “Students of the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute are grateful for the knowledge, insight, and years of experience you bring to the university, as well as the dozens of guest lecturers you have brought to the classroom.—

Featuring a photo of Bonner alongside a chalkboard where he has written, “All Politics Is Local,— the ad also lists a number of guest lecturers who have taken part in Bonner’s grass-roots lobbying workshop, including Steve Bartlett of the Financial Services Roundtable, Greg Casey of BIPAC, Dan Danner of the National Federation of Independent Business and Frank Fahrenkopf of the American Gaming Association. The ad also lists Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and former Rep. Tom McMillen (D-Md.) as guest lecturers.

AU spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said the decision to run the ad was made by the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.

“The [center] and Director James Thurber wanted to honor Bonner as a professor who has been affiliated with the center and who has been a mentor to numerous students and alumni through the years,— Csellar said.

In order to repair Bonner’s reputation, the grass-roots company announced at a Congressional hearing into the forged letters that it had hired Thurber as its ethics adviser.

Up for a Challenge. Throwing fundraisers in Washington, D.C., against an incumbent isn’t something a lot of K Streeters are prone to do, especially when the lawmaker sits on a powerful committee. So a recent invitation for a breakfast at the Financial Services Roundtable to help the coffers of Republican challenger Steve Stivers raised many eyebrows.

Stivers, a former banking industry lobbyist, is running against Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), a vulnerable Member who sits on the Financial Services Committee.

Democratic lobbyists quickly jumped on the offensive, calling this another example of how Washington hasn’t changed despite Democrats being in charge of both chambers of Congress and the administration.

The race, which is a priority for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), is expected to be a tight one, similar to the first time that Stivers and Kilroy faced each other in the 2008 election. Boehner is listed as a special guest for the Nov. 18 breakfast, which calls for attendees to contribute $2,000 at the host level, $1,000 per political action committee and $500 per individual, according to the invitation.

The group is sticking by its decision to support Stivers.

“The roundtable has supported Steve Stivers for a long time,— FSR’s Scott Talbott said. “The event reflects that position.—

Cat(fish) Fight. The catfish industry is upping its lobbying presence, as the Department of Agriculture gets ready to roll out new regulations on how to define catfish.

The Catfish Farmers of America recently hired Troutman Sander’s Ben Noble, Autumn Veazey, Rob Leebern and Patrick Anderson to push its case that the definition should include catfish and catfish-like species. The catfish farmers also have Federal Solutions on retainer.

The hires follow a long-standing battle between the catfish lobby and the National Fisheries Institute. The catfish farmers were successful in getting language inserted in the 2008 farm bill that moved the inspection of catfish from the Food and Drug Administration to the USDA.

The National Fisheries Institute is pushing for a much narrower definition of catfish. The group, which is represented by Holland & Knight, believes that the catfish industry is merely trying to block foreign fish from being imported as the USDA comes up with a new inspection regime. Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the institute, says catfish and catfish-like species are about as similar as humans and baboons.

Still, Catfish Farmers of America President Joey Lowery says he’s confident that the USDA will apply a broad definition to ensure food safety.

“The [USDA] secretary reassured us that his main focus on this was food safety for the American public, and if it is, they’ll use a broad definition to achieve this,— Lowery said.

Face Time. House Democratic leaders are embarking on a fundraising rampage in the coming weeks, stepping up their downtown events as attention begins to turn to the 2010 midterm elections.

According to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising list obtained by K Street Files, Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) is holding at least four events before Jan. 1, including Chinatown fundraisers at Lucky Strike Lanes on Nov. 16 and a Washington Wizards basketball game on Nov. 18.

Steering and Policy Committee Co-Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) is hosting a Nov. 19 fundraising breakfast at Johnny’s Half Shell, and Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (Miss.) held a $1,500-per-plate breakfast at the City Club of Washington on Tuesday.

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