K Street Files: Right-Wing Activists Chipping Away at Kagan

Posted July 16, 2010 at 3:44pm

With the Senate Judiciary Committee poised to approve Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan this week, conservative groups are looking to the floor battle.

These activists acknowledged that Kagan will probably be confirmed by the full Senate, but they said their strategy is to keep her Senate margin below that of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was approved 68-31.

“We want to maximize our vote on the floor,” said Gary Marx, executive director of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network. He and others said that can be accomplished by putting pressure on some Republicans who voted for Sotomayor and red-state Democrats. Those Democrats, they argued, could be swayed by the National Rifle Association’s opposition to Kagan.

The NRA, which has clout particularly in Southern and Western states, has run ads against the nominee.

Other groups have so far not employed expensive advertising but have relied instead on research reports, press conferences, Internet posts and their grass-roots organizers.

Americans United for Life’s Matthew Faraci said his group, unlike during the health care debate, has not invested in paid ads to generate opposition to Kagan. But he said AUL had devoted “all of our legal resources in the effort,” including a new report on Kagan’s stance on late-term abortions.

Richard Manning, spokesman for Americans for Limited Government, said judicial conservatives are lobbying Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to filibuster Kagan — a move that would put even more pressure on some conservative Democrats, who otherwise could vote against her even as her confirmation is approved.

Manning said at this point it was probable that Kagan will be confirmed, but he added that it is not as much of a lock as it was before the NRA came out against her.

Election-year politics also could affect the vote, said Manning, who suggested that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would like the NRA endorsement in his tight re-election battle.

Manning said Kagan had not yet risen as a major issue in the Congressional elections. “There are so many issues that are bigger than her,” he said. But in the future, “she could be emblematic of a bigger cultural divide.”

Offshore Influence

Transocean, the Swiss-based offshore drilling company that leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, used to keep a low profile in Washington, D.C. No longer. The company hired a well-connected lobbying firm, Capitol Hill Consulting Group, less than three weeks after the April 20 oil spill.

According to newly released second-quarter lobbying reports, the firm has already spent $110,000 on issues such as energy legislation, mobile drilling units and offshore drilling.

In contracting with Capitol Hill Consulting, Transocean has tapped former Rep. Bill Brewster (D-Okla.), a co-founder of the Blue Dog Coalition, and Jack Victory, who worked for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Also working on the account is David Jory, the firm’s president, John Blount, a senior vice president, and lobbyist Amanda Hill.

While Transocean has ramped up, BP, which has a much larger stable of outside firms and inside help, has dropped the law firm Arnold & Porter, according to a termination report filed with Congress on May 18. The report said the firm spent less than $5,000 on the BP account in the second quarter on issues related to energy, oil and gas legislation.

A Spigot for New Business

The BP explosion has clearly added to the already busy K Street agenda this year.

Numerous groups and companies, including those involved in fishing, the media, shipping, tourism and intellectual property rights, have been weighing in as Congress and the White House consider new legislation and regulations.

For example, Holland & Knight is lobbying on behalf of the National Fisheries Institute regarding the oil spill’s effect on seafood, according to second-quarter lobbying disclosure reports.

Rich Gold, a partner at Holland & Knight, said the firm had represented the fishermen for about five years and helped them get through Hurricane Katrina.

But he said the oil spill “is Katrina on steroids from their perspective.”

The lobbyist said that while the hurricane dampened one fishing season, the oil spill could affect them for a decade. Gold said that while lobbying on the oil spill may not be as intense as it has been for the major health care and financial services legislation, it will likely extend over a longer period.

The American Society of News Editors, through the law firm Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, has pressed the administration for better access to monitoring data related to the leak. A number of media and open-government groups sent a May 26 letter to President Barack Obama seeking better access.

The National Catastrophe Adjusters Inc. this week hired Broydrick & Associates to assist in its efforts to win a contract assisting with disaster compensation for those affected by the Gulf spill.

The Intellectual Property Owners Association is concerned about the divulging of trade secrets that might occur if legislation is approved that requires public disclosure of environmental cleanup plans.

Others that listed BP or the oil spill on their second-quarter lobbying disclosure reports to Congress included the American Association of Port Authorities, the American Maritime Officers and the American Shipping Group.

K Street Moves

• The Illinois Hospital Association has hired Kimberly Parker, a former Congressional staffer, as its vice president of federal relations based in Washington, D.C. She previously served as chief of staff for Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Laura Richardson (D-Calif.).

• The Financial Services Roundtable has tapped Abby McCloskey to be its director of research. McCloskey had previously been a legislative correspondent for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and before that she was a policy analyst with the Mercatus Center and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

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