K Street Files: Bundles of Influence

Posted March 23, 2010 at 5:18pm

Lobbying power couple Tony and Heather Podesta were busy scooping up lots of cash for Democratic Party committees last month, according to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission on K Street bundlers.

[IMGCAP(1)]Tony Podesta, head of the Podesta Group, raised $118,000 in bundled contributions for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $50,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Heather Podesta, who heads her own lobbying shop, Heather Podesta + Partners, raised $25,000 for the DCCC in February. The couple also reported a combined total of bundled contributions worth $114,000 to the Senate committee in January.

The other lobbyist bundlers for the Democrats last month were Brian Wolff, who reported $25,000 for the DCCC, and former House Democratic Leader and Gephardt Group President Dick Gephardt, who reported raising $25,000 for the Congressional committee.

Wolff, who now works for the Edison Electric Institute, was executive director of the DCCC and previously headed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) political operation. In January, Wolff raised a whopping $205,000 for the DCCC.

“Raising money is my night job,” Wolff said. “This is protecting an investment for me in not just the speakership but a Democratic majority that can move an agenda.”

Also reporting bundled contributions for the DCCC in January were Jack Quinn of Quinn, Gillespie & Associates, who raised $20,000, and Kenneth Gear of Leading Builders of America, who raised $40,000.

The lobbyists who raise money for Republicans will not be known until next month, since the GOP committees only file campaign finance reports on a quarterly basis.

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, said those lobbyists who disclose their bundled contributions “don’t mind being seen as big players who attract clientele who play the Washington money game at the highest level.”

McGehee said the disclosure law is written in such a way that many lobbyists who bundle contributions are able to avoid reporting their activity. She said the FEC reports capture “just the tip of iceberg.”

Profit-Sharing. Not everybody downtown is crying over House Democrats’ decision to nix earmarks for private, for-profit companies. In fact, public entities, including the University of the District of Columbia, are hoping the ban could improve their chances of scoring federal funding for earmark requests.

“It can only be helpful for us,” UDC Director of Government Relations Aimee Occhetti said. “These are earmarks you can do.”

UDC put in seven requests for funding, including one earmark for $275,000 that would help fund an urban teacher residency program. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) put in six of those requests, according to Occhetti. (UDC isn’t bothering with any GOP patrons, since House Republicans instituted a one-year moratorium on all earmark requests.)

Occhetti has also been working to get $5 million in federal funds to help overhaul the dilapidated former Backus Middle School building at 5171 South Dakota Ave. NE, which will serve as UDC’s new community college.

“The building is in dire need of fixing up,” Occhetti said.

UDC has Roetzel & Andress and the Campbell Group on retainer.

Honor System. It’s not every day that lobbyists present an award to their fave Member of Congress — it’s every year. The Bryce Harlow Foundation, the nonprofit named for legendary lobbyist Bryce Harlow, is honoring Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) tonight at the group’s 29th annual awards dinner.

“Throughout his 26 years as an elected official, Sen. Carper has demonstrated a commitment to open access so that all competing voices can be heard,” Bryce Harlow Foundation President Linda Dooley said in a statement.

Lawmakers who have previously won the award include House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s Joel Jankowsky tonight will also receive the group’s Business-Government Relations Award, which is sort of like the annual Oscar for lobbyists. A longtime K Streeter, Jankowsky has worked on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America, Dow Chemical Co. and PG&E Corp.

Home Remedy. Several physician trade groups are up in arms after an e-mail blast sent by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons urging House Members to vote against the health care reform bill listed their organizations without their permission.

AANS Washington, D.C., Director Katie Orrico sent an e-mail Friday afternoon telling House Members to vote against the health care reform bill.

The missive continued to list more than two dozen surgical and state medical associations, including the American College of Surgeons, American Academy of Ophthalmology and Society for Vascular Surgery, among others, as not supporting the House bill.

“Our signature was affixed to the neurological surgeon e-mail without our permission, and we would not have given it as the e-mail did not accurately reflect the academy’s position,” said David Parke II, CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

While the American Academy of Ophthalmology was opposed to the Senate bill, which the House voted on Sunday, the trade group did not ask Members to vote against the bill.

Orrico said that she sent the e-mail after the American Medical Association announced its support for the health care reform bill and that AANS and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons wanted to make sure House Members knew there were plenty of physicians opposed to the legislation.

“In no way, shape or form did the e-mail say the undersigned organizations urge you to vote no,” Orrico said. “The ‘vote no’ message was intended to be from our organization and our organization only.”

K Street Moves. Growth Energy, a coalition of U.S. ethanol supporters, has added to its ranks, including new Chief of Staff Katy Ziegler Thomas, formerly of the National Farmers Union. Roger Conway, former director of the Agriculture Department’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, signs on as chief economist, while Houston Ruck, previously with U.S. News & World Report, is now the group’s creative director.

Stephanie Dreyer, a former deputy press secretary for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), is coming aboard as public affairs associate. Kelly Manning, previously general manager for KSFY-TV in Sioux Falls, S.D., has been hired as Growth Energy’s vice president of development.

“We’re growing our team, and we’re adding talented, thoughtful and inspired people to our effort,” CEO Tom Buis said in a statement.

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