K Street Files: Meeting Barrasso’s Top Aide Is No Cheap Date

Posted June 25, 2010 at 5:15pm

It’s not uncommon for campaign committees to use senior Hill staffers to bring in political contributions. But Sen. John Barrasso’s decision to showcase his new chief of staff, Dan Kunsman, as the draw for a fundraising lunch last week left a bad taste among some GOP lobbyists.

The Wyoming Republican held a lunch reception Thursday at the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s offices to “welcome” Kunsman, according to a fundraising invitation. Suggested contribution: $1,000 per political action committee or $150 for personal contributions to attend.

“It was definitely a unique approach, and not one I would want repeated,” said one GOP lobbyist who attended the lunch. “It was uncomfortably close to the explicit staff access/money line.”

Kunsman, a Wyoming native, is replacing Shawn Whitman, who left Barrasso’s staff earlier this month after working nearly 16 years in the Senate. Whitman joined the lobby firm Kountoupes Consulting. Kunsman joined Barrasso’s staff after spending nine years as a partner in the Wyoming-based public relations firm Brimmer Kunsman Communications.

Barrasso’s campaign defended the fundraiser.

“The event was with Senator Barrasso to raise funds for his campaign,” Barrasso fundraiser Amy Bradley said in an e-mail. “It is not unusual for Chiefs of Staff, as political designees, to participate in a political fund raising event.”

Supersize Me

The world’s largest fast-food restaurant chain is bulking up in Washington, D.C., recently hiring a former top House Democrat to stay on top of the company’s legislative priorities. According to a June 1 Senate lobbying registration filing, McDonald’s Corp. signed up GrayLoeffler, the firm headed by former Reps. William Gray (D-Pa.) and Tom Loeffler (R-Texas).

Lobbying forms indicate that Gray, a former Majority Whip, will “assist with matters related to food production, wholesale, retail, transportation and consumption.”

A McDonald’s official declined to elaborate on the contract, saying, “We didn’t hire them for any specific purpose, just to improve our government relations standing in Washington.”

“We don’t have any plans at this time to lobby for or against any specific legislation,” company spokesman Lisa Howard said. “Just like any company, we’re anxious to have our voice heard.”

The lobbying voice of the Golden Arches has increased dramatically in recent years. In 2008, Ronald McDonald and Co. spent about $310,000 on federal lobbying, a figure that jumped to $480,000 one year later.

This year, the company is on pace to spend well above its 2008 and 2009 totals. In the first quarter alone, the only filing available for McDonald’s this year, the Oakbrook, Ill.-based corporation spent $420,000 lobbying the Democratic health care bill, which ultimately included provisions that require fast food chains to disclose calorie counts on their menus.

Manatt’s Coke Connection?

A downtown lobbying and law firm is denying any involvement with a Jamaican drug lord who was extradited to the United States last week.

Alleged kingpin Christopher Coke arrived in New York with U.S. law enforcement officials Thursday amid charges detailed in media reports that he orchestrated a massive narcotics and weapons operation from the island nation.

News reports have also linked the firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to the Coke case. An apparent confidant of Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Coke is reported to have hired downtown lobbyists to prevent his extradition. In response to an inquiry by K Street Files, a Department of Justice official pointed to a Manatt filing that details the firm’s relationship with the Jamaican government.

In a statement Thursday, a lawyer for the firm flatly denied any relationship between Manatt and Coke.

“As indicated in our FARA filings, Manatt was engaged by the Government of Jamaica, through Harold C.W. Brady, to assist with existing political and economic matters including existing treaty agreements between Jamaica and the U.S.,” general counsel Monte Lemann wrote in a statement. “In our contract signed by Mr. Brady, he acknowledges that he was authorized to contract with Manatt on behalf of the Jamaican government.”

“We facilitated meetings between representatives of the U.S. and Jamaican governments in their official capacities; and we had formal communications with Jamaican government representatives related to our representation,” he continued. “We did not represent Christopher Coke and we were not retained to lobby the U.S. government in connection with the Coke matter.”

K Street Moves

• Facebook has hired White House economic adviser Marne Levine to be its new vice president of global public policy. Levine, who has been chief of staff of the National Economic Council, will work in Facebook’s Washington, D.C., office, where she will be responsible for the California-based company’s outreach to the government and nongovernmental organizations around the world. Tim Sparapani will remain as director of Facebook’s D.C. office in charge of outreach to Congress and the federal government.

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