K Street Files: Big Reagan Admirers Fight Laws He Signed

Posted June 18, 2010 at 4:37pm

A group of prominent conservatives is promoting a proposal that would throw out Reagan-era drug sentencing laws that detractors claim are racist. Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene and former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) recently asked House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to sign on to a bill, the Fair Sentencing Act, which would “reduce the unjustified disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences.”

“The bill will protect public safety by focusing federal resources on the prosecution of major and serious traffickers and will allow states to focus on the street dealers and users,” reads a May 25 letter signed by the three, who added that it “will increase confidence in the criminal justice system by reducing the perception of racial bias.”

“According to analyses by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences has had a disproportionately negative impact on African Americans,” they added. “Blacks use crack at about the same rate as whites but nearly 80 percent of federal crack defendants in 2009 were African American, and crack sentences were, on average, over two years longer than sentences for powder cocaine offenses.”

The letter was also signed by Prison Fellowship Vice President Pat Nolan and Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute.

The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent in March but awaits House action.

Cleveland, Melting Pot

The nation’s largest labor federation is stepping up its calls for a rewrite of immigration laws. On Friday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told a gathering in Cleveland that an overhaul would be good for the economy.

“At the heart of our strategy must be a work force with world class skills and world class rights and trade policies that serve the interests of the American people,” Trumka said in his speech.

“The truth is that in a dynamic global economy in the 21st century, we simply cannot afford to have millions of hard-working people without legal protections, without meaningful access to higher education, shut off from the high-wage, high-productivity economy. … It is just too costly to waste all that talent and strength and drive.”

In his pitch to the local union faithful, Trumka also argued that the United States has a rich tradition in welcoming foreign nationals. “If you look around Cleveland at the ethnic clubs and the churches, you see a city that immigrants built — Hungarians and Poles, Irish and Italians, Serbs and Croats and Jews, as well as African-Americans,” he said. “Cleveland is a city where the traditions of the places we came from are the very foundation of our community.”

Parlez-Vous New Business?

The recently formed Thorsen French Advocacy has signed up six clients this month. The bipartisan shop, headed by Carl Thorsen and Alec French, registered to lobby on behalf of Comcast, Continental Airlines and the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

The new shop also is doing work for the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign, as well as the National Immigration Forum Action Fund and the National Music Publishers Association.

“We feel good about getting off to such a strong start,” Thorsen said. “It is a validation of our brand and business model.”

Branching Out

Republican Juleanna Glover is expanding her portfolio. In addition to lobbying for the Rockefeller Family Fund and Hermitage Capital Management at the Ashcroft Group, Glover recently signed up energy company First Solar as an independent lobbyist.

Glover will be lobbying on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to the Senate lobbying records. This isn’t her first independent client. She also has the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants on retainer separately from the Ashcroft Group.

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