K Street Files: Tapped Out to Boehner’s PAC? That’s Too Bad

Posted June 29, 2010 at 5:19pm

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is known for generously doling out campaign contributions to vulnerable Republican Members and candidates through his leadership political action committee Freedom Project.

The International Franchise Association appeared to be taking cues from Boehner earlier this month when its lobbyist Jason Straczewski sent an e-mail invite proposing that lobbyists or corporate PACs that have already contributed the $5,000 maximum amount allowed to Freedom Project could still attend a dinner for the PAC by giving at least $1,000 to five or more of Boehner’s favorite incumbents or candidates.

“I know that many of you have already maxed to the Freedom Project and if that’s the case, we have a great way for you to attend the dinner and help support several Republican candidates and incumbents who are strong supporters of small business and free enterprise,” Straczewski wrote June 7. “Several of the challengers … are part of the NRCC’s Young Guns program and have a proven record of support for small businesses in addition to strong polling numbers in their race.”

But the offer to extend campaign cash to candidates is no longer on the table.

“You may have seen an old e-mail from a month ago, you should know that the event tomorrow night is to support the Freedom Project only and no dollars are being raised for other candidates,” Straczewski wrote Tuesday. “Out of an abundance of caution regarding contribution limits, we clarified with interested attendees that this was a Freedom Project only event.”

The unlucky candidates no longer up for campaign contributions from the event include Reps. Charlie Dent (Pa.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.) and Lee Terry (Neb.). Steve Chabot, who is running against Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), and Pat Meehan, who is running to replace Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), also were candidates.

Bonilla Lands GM

Former Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) continues to sign up new clients at the Normandy Group, recently bringing on General Motors. According to lobbying records filed with the Secretary of the Senate, the one-time appropriator brought on the automaker on June 18 to lobby for an “amendment in financial reform conference, tax and pension issues and general matters related to the automotive industry.”

Bonilla did not return a message left at his office by press time Tuesday, but GM is just the latest client Bonilla has signed up this month. On June 11, he registered the education group Rocket Learning to assist the “implementation of supplemental education services in local school districts.” Last week, he registered to lobby on behalf of General Electric to advocate for the manufacture of the Joint Strike Fighter engine. Bonilla lost to Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) in 2006.

Nomura Adds a Democrat

Japanese financial services firm Nomura is expanding its Washington, D.C., presence. Just months after bringing on Republican lobbyist Heather Wingate to start the firm’s D.C. outpost, Nomura is hiring Democrat Mark Schuermann.

Schuermann, senior vice president for government relations for the Financial Services Forum, is joining the company in July. The former chief of staff to then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) and one-time communications director on the whip leadership staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), has also worked as a lobbyist at Sallie Mae. Schuermann did not respond to several requests for comment.

Business Mum on Kagan

Interest groups on the left and right are making a lot of noise over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, but big-business lobbying organizations are staying behind the scenes on this fight.

Only the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is expected to take a formal stand on Kagan, whose confirmation hearings began Monday. The chamber is in the middle of a formal review process and is not likely to take a position on Kagan’s confirmation until after the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are over, according to spokesman Sheldon Gilbert.

Gilbert said his organization evaluates Supreme Court nominees “from a standpoint of legal scholarship, judicial temperament and a demonstrated understanding of business and economic issues.”

Over the years, the chamber, which typically sides with conservatives on legislative matters, has been bipartisan in its endorsements, backing every Supreme Court nominee since David Souter in 1990, including President Barack Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor last year.

Most other business lobbying groups say they are staying out of the Supreme Court nomination fight altogether.

“At this time we are not dedicating any resources to the confirmation process,” said Jeff Ostermayer, a spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers. “We are mostly concerned about the manufacturing process.”

Kirk Monroe, a spokesman for the Business Roundtable, which represents major corporate executives, added: “We don’t comment on Supreme Court nominees.”

Stephanie Cathcart, a spokeswoman for the National Federation of Independent Business, also said her small-business group was abstaining from the Kagan fight.

K Street Moves

• Venn Strategies has added Lindsay Punzenberger, a former aide to Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), as an assistant vice president. Punzenberger focuses on health care, energy and environmental policy.

“Lindsay is an important addition to our team as we continue to grow and expand our client services in one of Venn’s biggest years to date,” Stephanie Silverman, Venn’s founder and CEO, said in a press statement.

• Williams & Jensen lobbyist Melinda Maxfield has been promoted to principal. Before joining the firm as an associate in 2007, Maxfield was deputy finance director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the chairmanship of Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.).

Bennett Roth contributed to this report.

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