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A Lobbying Venture Is Stymied

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By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Michael Liu, a housing official in the Bush administration until May, has learned a difficult lesson about the lobbying world.

Formerly assistant secretary for public and Indian housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Liu had made a nice spin through the revolving door and had landed at Dutko Worldwide -- in its housing practice, of course.

Liu and Dutko colleague Philip A. Musser , an earlier veteran of the Bush housing department, had what they thought was a great idea: Set up a coalition of public housing authorities (PHAs) -- under Dutko management -- to lobby Congress and HUD to make sure the public housing authorities get enough federal funds under a operating subsidy formula that is the subject of a proposed HUD rule.

But there was a problem with the venture: Liu was involved in the negotiations over the formula last year and in the drafting of the rule shortly before he left for Dutko, and that became an issue when The Housing Affairs Letter, a Silver Spring-based newsletter, got hold of the solicitation letter Liu and Musser sent to a group of public-housing authorities.

The Housing Affairs Letter reported that public-housing advocates "see the effort as a device for Liu to cash in on a regulation he had a direct hand in developing last year." According to the letter, to join the Coalition for Fairness, housing authorities would have to pay from $1,000 to $4,000 a month for six months depending on size, with discounts if the membership fee is paid upfront.

Liu and Musser wrote that "we have strong indications of commitment from just over 20 PHAs. We believe we need to have a membership base of between 30 to 40 PHAs to make the Coalition viable and effective."

That will not be happening. After the publicity, Liu and Musser dropped the idea. "There won't be a coalition. We're too busy to attempt to pursue this," Liu said in an interview yesterday.

Liu said it turned out that many of the public housing authorities have decision-making processes that would take too long to approve their involvement in such a coalition. But he also acknowledged that he would have had to work behind the scenes on the effort because of restrictions on his ability to lobby HUD as a result of his involvement with the operating-subsidy formula and the rule. A one-year lobbying restriction on Musser is over.

Instead, Liu said he and Musser are working on helping cities and public-sector entities find financing for affordable-housing projects. "We're not involved in lobbying," Liu said. "That's very low on the totem pole for the area we're expanding into."

Musicians to Flock on the Hill

There'll be singing and jamming Wednesday on Capitol Hill as perhaps 100 music pros come to town for what's being billed as the first ever Recording Arts Day.

The event is being sponsored by the Recording Academy, the American Federation of Musicians, BMI and others. Look for Gloria Estefan, "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson, producer Jimmy Jam, saxophonist Dave Koz and others.

Daryl Friedman , vice president for advocacy and government relations for the Recording Academy, said it's "important for music makers and policy makers to talk directly." He said the music makers want to talk about their contribution to American culture and the economy, as well as the importance of music education.

Perhaps the goodwill generated by the day on the Hill, Friedman suggested, will carry over to later in the year, when the music makers want to talk about royalties, copyright and broadcast-decency legislation.

Astronauts Lobby for Rocket Manufacturer

If six retired astronauts can help lobby Congress for ATK Thiokol Inc., think how well seven could do.

After last week's column about how ATK Thiokol, the company that manufactures the space shuttle's booster rockets, had enlisted six retired astronauts to educate lawmakers about the benefits of "shuttle-derived" technology, the lobby registration of another astronaut popped up: Mary Ellen Weber , a veteran of two spaceflights and vice president for government affairs and policy at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

A company spokesman said that should be it.

Career Moves

Also moving about town . . . Mary Waters , who left the Bush administration as assistant secretary for congressional relations at the Agriculture Department, has joined the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp. -- Farmer Mac -- as vice president for corporate relations. She certainly has the credentials.

Earlier, Waters was legislative counsel for ConAgra Foods Inc., an aide to then-Rep. Larry J. Hopkins (R-Ky.) and director of the Agricultural Task Force for the House Republican Research Committee.

Melissa MacGregor moves from the law firm Crowell & Moring to the Securities Industry Association, where she'll be assistant vice president and assistant general counsel. Travis Larson alsomoves to the SIA from Clear Channel Communications Inc., for a job as vice president for corporate communications. Earlier, Larson worked on Arizona Sen. John McCain's 2000 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Ben Veghte joins SIA as coordinator for corporate communications, coming from the Reinsurance Association of America.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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