K Street Files: Tax Lobbyists Cometh

Posted April 13, 2010 at 6:36pm

Most Americans will send their taxes to the federal government by tax day Thursday with only a private grumble, but a number of individuals and companies have taken a more formal approach to their gripes. At least 254 clients — a record number — hired lobbyists in 2009 to meet directly with the Internal Revenue Service in hopes of lowering the amount they pay to Uncle Sam, according to a CQ MoneyLine study.

[IMGCAP(1)]While corporations and associations often lobby the tax-collecting agency, a recent influx of individual citizens and estates that hire lobbyists is partly responsible for 2009’s record number.

One of the top firms representing the most companies that lobby the IRS directly is Capitol Tax Partners. Much of the tax relief sought by the firm in 2009 was on behalf of its clients in the energy industry, including Edison Electric Institute, Horizon Wind Energy and Mesa Power Group.

Capitol Tax Partners also lobbied the IRS on behalf of clients such as the Motion Picture Association of America in 2009 when it tried to influence the agency on “tax issues related to [the] film industry,” according to lobbying disclosure reports with Congress. It also tried to frame the debate related to the stimulus bill.

Not surprisingly, tax-preparation firms frequent the IRS, as well.

H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and the National Association of Enrolled Agents have all listed lobbying the IRS every year since 1999. Similarly, business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation and National Federation of Independent Business have been pounding the pavement over at the IRS.

French Connection. Less than four months after striking out on his own to form the Thorsen Group, Carl Thorsen is bringing on a partner, former NBC Universal lobbyist Alec French. The duo’s new firm will be called Thorsen French Advocacy.

French, though a Democrat, has a similar background to GOPer Thorsen. Both worked as counsels on the House Judiciary Committee.

French isn’t coming empty-handed to the new firm. He’s already signed on three clients: NBC, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the Directors Guild of America.

Thorsen has also attracted a handful of clients since hanging his shingle in January, including Comcast, Western Union, the National Music Publishers Association and the National Immigration Forum.

While the pair has a stable of clients, French said the two are “clearly looking to grow on the client side.”

Going Bipartisan. Gephardt Government Affairs, the firm founded by former Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), is expanding its portfolio with two new hires including the shop’s first-ever Republican.

The firm has brought on Scott Brenner, a George W. Bush appointee in the Transportation Department, and Kyle Mulhall, a former Gephardt aide, as vice presidents. They will lead the shop’s transportation practice.

“As Democratic Leader, I trusted Kyle for nearly a decade with all transportation legislation and related appropriations issues,” Gephardt said in a statement. “Scott has a strong background in both public policy and communications.”

Both Mulhall and Brenner are joining from Akerman Senterfitt. Their clients include the city of Bayamón, Puerto Rico; DeTect Inc.; Miami-Dade Expressway Authority; Port of Oakland; Reno-Tahoe Airport; and Sensis Corp.

Association Liaison. SmartBrief’s J.P. Moery is starting a joint venture with Mark French, president of LAI. The new firm, Moery/LAI, will provide services to associations such as helping them with membership development, sponsorship sales and special project fundraising. Moery, former head of association relations at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has already signed on clients, including SmartBrief, the Consumer Specialty Products Association, the Business Software Alliance and the International Franchise Association.

K Street Moves. The group Health Care for America Now, which is slimming down now that health care reform has become law, has tapped Ethan Rome to serve as executive director. Rome takes over for Richard Kirsch, an HCAN founder, who has moved back to his home in upstate New York. Rome joins from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. HCAN now is working to promote the reform law and to provide backing to Members who voted for it.

• Jason Brewer has joined the Retail Industry Leaders Association as vice president of communications and advocacy. Brewer most recently worked as senior media manager at the National Federation of Independent Business.

• The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America has brought on Leon Buck, most recently chief of staff to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), as assistant vice president for federal government relations. This isn’t Buck’s first trip downtown: He was once a lobbyist in the American Red Cross’ office of government relations and public policy.

Kate Ackley contributed to this report.

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