K Street Files: Levin’s Insiders

Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:27pm

New York Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) is well-known for having a close group of K Street confidantes, but Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), his successor as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, isn’t going to be lonely holding the gavel. He, too, has a plethora of K Streeters and former staffers waiting in the wings as the tax-writing panel begins its work in earnest.

[IMGCAP(1)]Levin aides-turned-lobbyists include Eric Gould and Holly Bode. Gould, a partner at Thurman Gould, lobbies on behalf of Miami-Dade County in Florida, ARA Safety Inc. and Global Baggage Protection Systems. A lobbyist at Ernst & Young, Bode is registered to work for a number of corporate clients including Aetna, the American Staffing Association, Boeing Co. and the Association of American Railroads.

Levin also has longtime ties going back to Michigan with Gary Lytle of Clark Lytle & Geduldig. Lytle has known Levin and his brother, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), since the early 1970s, when Lytle was a state lobbyist for Michigan Bell. “He is a very dogged competitor,” Lytle said of facing Rep. Levin on the squash court. The pair also both lost their wives to cancer.

While Lytle no longer plays squash, he says he still sees Levin on the political court as a federal lobbyist. Lytle counts such companies as AT&T, Fidelity Investments and Bloomberg as clients.

Damage Control. With the firm already putting out fires on Capitol Hill for the beleaguered Toyota Motor Corp., the Glover Park Group was recently brought on by SeaWorld to mitigate another nasty public relations fiasco: the death of an employee last month who was killed by a 11,000-pound whale in front of a presumably horrified Orlando, Fla., audience.

A Glover Park representative declined to comment on the hire, but multiple downtown sources confirmed that the shop is providing public relations help to the amusement park but is not lobbying the federal government on the incident. SeaWorld, which also has locations in San Diego and San Antonio, is owned by the Blackstone Group, another Glover Park client. A representative for the private equity firm did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Going Global. K Streeters have been avidly (and maybe even a little jealously) watching the rise of the Podesta Group’s lobbying revenues over the past two years. Now the K Street titan is going a step further by expanding its foreign representation.

The firm recently signed up to represent the National Security Council of Georgia. Podesta is set to bring in $600,000 from the Eurasian nation. This expands the firm’s burgeoning international affairs clients, which include the Swiss Federation, the Embassy of Japan and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Tony Podesta, Molly McKew, Teal Baker, John Anderson and Jessica Lawrence registered to lobby on behalf of Georgia. The firm is providing “strategic counsel to the principal on communicating priority issues in the United States-Georgia bilateral relationship to relevant U.S. audiences, including the U.S. Congress, administration, media, and policy community,” according to a lobbying report filed with the Justice Department.

Opting Out. The “not in my backyard” lobbying approach is starting to gain steam downtown as negotiations continue in the Senate over the financial services regulatory overhaul. Non-banking industries joined together last week to form a big-business alliance that is urging Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) to leave them out of the package.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Industrial Energy Consumers of America, National Petrochemical & Refiners Association and Fertilizer Institute formed the Main Street Industry Alliance.

“Our organizations are extremely concerned that financial regulatory reform efforts could extend banking-style regulation to manufacturers and other non-financial U.S. companies,” the coalition wrote. “Such a sweeping measure could create unintended consequences that could have devastating ramifications on job creation, innovation and U.S. competitiveness, adversely impacting economic growth for years to come.”

That coalition comes on the heels of another recently formed coalition of insurance industry executives. State Farm Insurance, Allstate Corp., Travelers Companies Inc., Chubb Corp. and Zurich Financial Services Group were among the insurers forming the Property & Casualty Leaders Coalition. The Property & Casualty Leaders Coalition last week also called on Dodd to leave them out of the financial services regulatory overhaul.

K Street Moves. Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications Inc. has hired Graham Shalgian, Shawn Sullivan and Patrick Bench. Shalgian, who will be a senior vice president, spent the past seven years as policy director for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Sullivan, who also joins as senior vice president, is moving from Cassidy & Associates. Bench, who will be vice president, most recently was director of business development for the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment.

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