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In the Loop

A Smiley Face on Social Security

By Al Kamen
Monday, February 28, 2005; Page A15

We were simply overbooked Thursday afternoon and couldn't make it to an important White House meeting on ginning up popular support for the administration's thoughts on Social Security. Fortunately, Lisa McGreevy, executive vice president of the Financial Services Roundtable, sent an e-mail summary of the highlights.

"This afternoon," she reported, "a number of us were a part of a WH [White House] meeting to hear about their plans to move the Social Security reform debate forward. Deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and NEC [National Economic Council] head Al [Allan B.] Hubbard spoke to the group about the President's strong belief and commitment to taking on this battle."

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Rove deputy " Barry Jackson also addressed the group and addressed the importance to the WH effort of the CoMPASS. CoMPASS is tasked with raising between 15 and 20 million [dollars, presumably] for the grass roots and grasstops [local community leaders] part of the reform effort. In addition, CoMPASS is the umbrella organization which will be coordinating business community activities. Trade Associations are being asked to join CoMPASS. The Roundtable is a member of CoMPASS and is participating on the steering committee.

"As part of CoMPASS' outreach efforts they have created Generations Together as the 'face' of the public campaign," McGreevy said.

With $20 million, that'll be a happy face.

It's Jim DeMint, Live From . . .

There's always something endearing about newcomers to the Senate. Maybe it's a certain eagerness, a bubbliness about them, their ability to see even the most mundane events with a freshman's delight.

So here was new South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's breathless announcement last week that he was going with other lawmakers on a very guided tour of Iraq.

"Somewhere between D.C. & Iraq" the news release dateline said. (This is similar to the coveted dateline of "Somewhere over . . ." or "With U.S. forces landing in. . . .")

"Today, Senator Jim DeMint (R) announced he is in flight to Iraq leading a group of Congressmen, including Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), to the front lines of the War on Terror. The trip, labeled 'CoDel DeMint,' includes visits to Iraq, Kuwait and Germany. This will be DeMint's first international trip as a U.S. Senator. DeMint [who served six years in the House] will meet with U.S. and Iraqi officials, including the three leaders of the major political parties and see firsthand how reconstruction funds are being utilized.

"While the exact details of the trip are not released until after the fact due to security concerns," -- DeMint apparently being so well known in the region -- "tomorrow DeMint's office will begin issuing daily 'DeMint Delegation in Iraq' press briefings that will include the latest developments, comments from Senator DeMint, photos and links to audio recordings of the Senator on the ground." These will be coming "from the front lines."

New boy's gonna have to calm down a bit.

Cheap at Any Price

Browsing the Spanish-language wire services, we notice there was buzz in San Juan last week about the city's having spent $1.6 million from 2003 to 2004 for "administrative consulting services" by Washington lobbyists.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, a Republican, said the funds went to powerhouse Quinn Gillespie & Associates, according to the Associated Press. But he listed all the money San Juan has picked up as a result of the firm's efforts, including $74 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a $10 million project and a $2.5 million reimbursement from Medicare.

The first contract was awarded June 9, 2003, retroactive to April of that year, for $150,000, AP reported. Another contract was awarded June 30, 2004, for services on that day alone, for $350,000.

"Some error could have been made in the information, but for one day they were not paid $350,000," Santini said, according to media reports.

Hey, why not? They're pretty good.

Pizza Party Leaves Bad Taste

Still looking for work in the new administration? Keep an eye on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, where there are reports of substantial turnover and fine opportunities to burrow in to career posts.

But it's not necessarily a happy place, according to a recent assessment in the Product Safety & Liability Reporter, which described the turnover as a "whirlwind."

"A recent disciplinary action against three employees," PSLR reported, "resulted in their quitting the commission. After that incident, which allegedly involved an in-the-office pizza party, a reminder was sent to the staff that Office of Personnel Management rules allow only a 30-minute lunch hour." So that's a lunch half-hour. "Sources indicate that staffers now charge themselves annual leave if they go over the 30-minute limit."

Can they safely consume lunch products that quickly?

Doing Well for Himself

Mark Corallo, the newly departed chief spokesman for the Justice Department -- and before that a longtime Hill (House side) communications type -- has set up shop in Alexandria in an operation called Corallo Media Strategies. Word is he already bested some of the PR "big boys" in securing some fine work on film and recording industry issues.

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