K Street Files: ‘I Do’ Lobby

Posted December 18, 2009 at 4:12pm

The decision by the D.C. Council to legalize same-sex marriage has added another item to the already full Congressional lobbying platter of gay rights groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign.

[IMGCAP(1)]Congress has 30 legislative days after D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) signs the bill, as he did Friday, to review the gay marriage measure.

It is highly unlikely that a Democratically controlled Congress would pass a stand-alone resolution of disapproval that would overturn the law. However, gay rights groups will still be on the lookout for efforts by conservatives to slip provisions in appropriations bills that could nullify or weaken the marriage law. That action would not have to occur within the 30-day time frame.

“Obviously Congress has a long history of attaching anti-gay and other riders to District of Columbia appropriations bills. We are watching closely for these types of riders,’’ said David Stacy, senior public policy advocate at the HRC.

In the past, lawmakers were able to attach riders that barred funding for domestic partner registry in the District. But this month, Congress approved a spending bill that lifted past restrictions on the District, including one that barred a medical marijuana law from taking effect.

Opponents of the gay marriage initiative have vowed to turn to Congress and the courts to force a public referendum on the gay marriage measure.

Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, said lawmakers were already being contacted about the issue.

“Congress has the ability to say, ‘No, we’re not going to move forward,’ either through direct vote or an appropriation rider,— he said. Brown added that the appropriations route is more likely given the fact that lawmakers are tied up on so much other legislation, such as health care.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the ranking member on the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that reviews D.C. issues, has already said he plans to introduce legislation in January to overturn the marriage measure.

The Human Rights Campaign, which has the largest lobbying operation of any gay rights organization, has a number of other issues that it will be pushing on Capitol Hill in the new year, including an employment nondiscrimination act, domestic partner benefits for federal workers and repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell— policy regarding gays in the military.

Stocking Stuffer. With the health care debate spilling into the holiday advertising season, advocacy groups have been looking for creative ways to grab the attention of the public and lawmakers who may not be keen on finding any public insurance options or Medicare buy-ins under their Christmas tree.

One coalition that is lobbying for generic drugs decided to wrap up its ads attacking lawmakers for helping the brand-name drug companies in holiday imagery.

The spots, which include TV, print and radio, are accompanied by images of gift-wrapped boxes, including one half-open with piles of paper money.

The ads, underwritten by the Coalition for a Competitive Pharmaceutical Marketplace, suggest Congress is giving a big present to brand-name drug companies by restricting generic drug companies’ access to the biologic drug market.

Kathleen Jaeger, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, a coalition member, said the ads were an attempt to reach people during a holiday season crowded with other spots.

“The whole point was to pull everyone in who wasn’t watching,— she said. “They think they are watching a holiday ad, and at the end they get a very powerful policy message.—

Other groups are also trying novel approaches, although they do not include holiday themes.

Liberal group MoveOn.org has released a comic Web video featuring a sock puppet of Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) making what it claims are “outrageous demands in order to gain his support for health care reform.—

The video is part of an appeal by the group to call Congress and oppose Lieberman, who recently forced Senate Democrats to ditch a Medicare buy-in plan for people ages 55 to 64.

K Street Moves. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has added Cate McCanless Blankenburg, previously with the American College of Surgeons, as a policy adviser in the firm’s government relations group. She also worked as the senior Congressional lobbyist for the American Osteopathic Association and as the grass-roots and political affairs manager for the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

• Bryan Goettel, a former TV reporter with KWWL in Waterloo, Iowa, has joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a manager in the media relations department.

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