The Telephone Game

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, May 12, 2005

CompTel/ALTS, the new industry association of competitors to the local phone companies, has snared a politically well-connected Republican as its new chief executive to help in its fight against the not-so-Baby Bells and further consolidation.

The new CEO will be Earl W. Comstock , a former senior aide to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and one of the key congressional aides in the writing of the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996. Comstock, currently a partner at the Sher & Blackwell law firm, will start June 1.

CompTel/ALTS is a merger of trade groups. Originally the Association of Long Distance Telephone Companies, CompTel went through a number of mergers to include local service providers, wireless companies, Internet service providers and others. It merged in 2003 with the Association of Communications Enterprises (Ascent) and then, this March, with the Association for Local Telecommunications Services (ALTS). Ascent alone had more than 850 members in 2000, and now the combined group has about 350. The group has been dealt the added blow of SBC's purchase of AT&T and Verizon's plan to buy MCI -- AT&T and MCI had helped the smaller companies fight the phone giants.

"These are critical times for us" and for consumer choice, said Drew Walker , interim chief executive of CompTel/ALTS. Comstock's "background is significant," Walker said. "He has tremendous contacts in town. We believe, we know, he is highly respected."

Of the move to the trade group, Comstock said, "It was a wonderful opportunity to move from the background to the front lines."

Comstock had been sponsored for a vacancy on the Federal Communications Commission by Stevens, whose Senate committee oversees telecommunications issues. But Comstock withdrew his name last month because of visa issues with a nanny employed by his family.

The Korn/Ferry search firm helped make the match with Comstock and CompTel/ALTS. He succeeds H. Russell Frisby Jr. , who left for Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham .

Real Time

If Capitol Hill is looking a bit crowded this week, you can blame the 8,500 or so real estate types who are in town for the midyear legislative meeting of the National Association of Realtors. They'll be buttonholing members of Congress to support legislation to help small businesses with health care costs and to protect the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in ensuring the availability of affordable housing. President Bush is slated to speak to the group tomorrow.

Loyal Opposition

Expanding as it fights the administration on judicial nominees, privacy and other issues, People for the American Way added three new folks: former congressman Andy Maguire , a Democrat from New Jersey, as senior adviser for strategy and fundraising; Jeff Johnson , an African Methodist Episcopal youth minister and former vice president of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, as director of African American outreach; and Laura Esquivel , ex-director of public policy and government relations for the Latino Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organization, as director of issues marketing and research.

In addition, Jeff Berman , managing director of the Berman Group , a Los Angeles-based strategic and political consulting shop, is joining People as a consultant. Earlier, Berman was chief counsel to Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and helped develop and coordinate strategy for opposing Bush judicial nominees considered by Democratic senators and some advocacy groups as "extreme."

"It promises to be an active several years ahead of us," said Ralph G. Neas , head of People for the American Way.

Arizonan Moves On

Former House member Matthew J. Salmon , a Republican from Arizona, has joined Greenberg Traurig as a director of governmental affairs.

He served in the House from 1995 to 2001. He went to work for Apco , started his own public affairs shop and made a run for governor of Arizona. Salmon will be working out of Washington and Phoenix.

In Other Moves . . .

B&D Sagamore is bolstering its health and life sciences team with the addition of Elizabeth Woody , who handled health care issues, with a focus on appropriations, for Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.).

Linda Bloss-Baum has moved from Universal Studios Entertainment (later NBC Universal) to the Warner Music Group, where she is vice president for public policy and government relations. She'll head WMG's new public policy office in Washington. Earlier, she was counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Paul Connor , most recently an official at the Environmental Protection Agency, has joined the National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals as executive director. At the EPA, he was director of the Policy and Program Evaluation Division of the Office of Site Remediation Enforcement. Bridget Thorsen Stesney rejoins NALGEP as deputy director after stints at the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Spiegel & McDiarmid .

Spencer O. Perlman has left Ungaretti & Harris for Gardner Carton & Douglas. Perlman earlier worked on the Hill.

Randy DeCleene , a former deputy press secretary to Vice President Cheney, and Elizabeth Straub , a former speechwriter for Laura Bush, have joined Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.

Stephanie Childs , a former International Trade Administration official, has joined the Information Technology Association of America as vice president for government affairs and tax policy.

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