New Lobbying Crew on the Menu

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, July 14, 2005

Signatures, the pricey restaurant where much-investigated Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff wined and dined politicians and their aides, has been sold -- to other lobbyists.

Mark R. Smith of the Da Vinci Group said he and partners, Bob Livingston of the Livingston Group and a former Republican House member, and Greg Baroni , president of Unisys' Global Public Sector, bought the eatery from Abramoff in recent weeks. Their new company for this venture is called Forward Pass LLC. Executive Chef Morou Outtara also has a 10 percent interest, Smith said.

Smith wanted to make clear that they have nothing to do with Abramoff, nor are they taking on any of his debt. He declined to say how much they paid for the restaurant at 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

"Mr. Abramoff is no longer engaged in the day-to-day operations or ownership of the restaurant," Smith said, though he added that Abramoff "comes in and eats."

A spokesman for Abramoff said he would have no comment on the restaurant. Federal investigators have been examining the tens of millions of dollars in lobbying and PR fees Abramoff obtained from tribal clients and are looking into his dealings with lawmakers and their staffs.

The decision to buy the restaurant was purely a business one, for the benefit of the partners, Smith said. He said the partners are hiring a new general manager and putting together a marketing plan. Up to now, he said, the restaurant had been marketed only through "Jack's Rolodex."

And Smith emphatically noted that diners -- even the political ones -- will be expected to pay for their meals.

"We got into this to make a profit," Smith said. "At the end of the day, everybody pays."


Caroline Fredrickson is moving from NARAL Pro-Choice America to be the chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, arriving at a time when the ACLU believes the nation's civil liberties are particularly under attack by the USA Patriot Act.

Fredrickson said the ACLU is working to improve the Patriot Act "so there's greater respect for rights" or to ensure that sections of the law it considers intrusive are allowed to die under the law's sunset provisions.

Fredrickson starts Monday as director of the ACLU's legislative office. She's been general counsel and legal director of NARAL, which supports abortion rights. Earlier, she was chief of staff for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and a senior aide to then-Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.).

Gen. Frost's New Billet

After 31 years in the Army, Retired Maj. Gen. Kathryn Frost will be taking on a new command: She'll be executive director of the American Association of University Women, effective Aug. 1.

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