The Money Maw

The MZM sign at the MCI Center hearkens back to a company of yore.
The MZM sign at the MCI Center hearkens back to a company of yore. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Washington so far has managed to take the much-hyped "Abramoff Effect" in stride. There was a little hiccup, to be sure, when the birthday bash-fundraiser tonight for Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) moved from powerhouse lobbyist Cassidy & Associates offices to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Tonight also turns out to be all-Montana night, as Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who's not even running this year, has invited lobbyists to a dinner at a tony restaurant at 9th and K Streets NW. That's also $2,000 for political action committees and $1,000 for individuals. (So first hors d'oeuvres for Burns, a little song and then down the hill to Baucus's for dinner.)

Can't make it to dinner? No problem. Baucus will be in the Cassidy skybox at the MCI Center raising money at a Bon Jovi concert next week.

Out of town tonight? No problem. You are cordially invited to attend a reception in support of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who's also not running this year. It's a cheap-o, just $500 a person and $1,000 a PAC, at his apartment in Georgetown on Feb. 6.

That is scheduled to be the first day of debate in the Senate on the very complicated asbestos trust fund legislation. Specter is leading the debate on his bill that aims to take care of people exposed to asbestos fibers.

The invite, we were told, was sent to many of the lobbyists involved on the many, many sides of the issue. Specter, chatting with our colleague Jeffrey H. Birnbaum , said this is an annual event that he does during his birthday week and no particular lobbying interests were singled out.

If you can't go, send a card. It's his 76th on Feb. 12.

Farewell, Graham Farewell

Did you mark your calendars next week for a "farewell reception" Tuesday "honoring John Graham ," the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget?

That's the super-powerful office that oversees many business regulations. The lobbying firm Valis Associates, which lists manufacturing, telecommunications and energy groups among its 2005 clients, had booked the Committee on Small Business room in the Rayburn House Office Building for the event.

Graham has often been blasted for being pro-business, and some hypersensitive eyebrows arched yesterday about this gathering. But he is leaving his job March 1, and people throw farewell receptions all the time to thank oversight officials for jobs well done.

Even so, OMB spokesman Alex Conant , asked yesterday about the reception, said: "After it was first cleared by the ethics office, our understanding of the basic event changed and no longer fits within our ethical guidelines, so it was canceled." We're told the cancellation came around 5:30 p.m.

Tiebreaker Looms on FCC Horizon

The Federal Communications Commission may be a step closer to filling its long-vacant third Republican seat. The name of Robert M. McDowell , senior vice president and assistant general counsel at the Comptel telecom trade association, is being floated for the seat, Reuters reported, which would give FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin a working majority. There hasn't been a GOP majority on the commission since Michael K. Powell left as chairman in March 2005.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), whose support is key -- and there has been to-ing and fro-ing between him and the White House for months over the slot -- said yesterday he would support McDowell.

For Lawmakers, a One-Night Sand

Neither rain nor storm nor gloom of night nor even a "debilitating sandstorm" will deter congressional delegations from their appointed rounds. In fact, a codel headed by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) used a weekend sandstorm in Iraq to tout that it had "established a landmark as being the first such group to stay overnight with American troops in Fallujah."

Of course the group, which included Reps. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Todd R. Platts (R-Pa.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), didn't have much choice, because they arrived by air at the base in Fallujah and were marooned by the storm.

Why, there wasn't even a chance to stroll the back streets of Fallujah and ask folks how things are going. Even so, the hardy band, which had earlier stopped in Kuwait to meet with Kuwaiti officials, media and women activists, took off the next day for Afghanistan.

What's Left of the Score

Speaking of the MCI Center, a Loop Fan checking out the scoreboard at a Wizards game the other night noticed the fine banner ad for MZM Inc. That was the defense contracting firm founded by Mitchell J. Wade , who's under investigation for certain dealings with former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.). Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiring to take millions in bribes from contractors.

MZM was sold over the summer and is now known as Athena Innovative Solutions Inc., but its MCI account still must be paid. The ad says "MZM Inc. Providing Solutions Through Innovation."

Innovation? Sounds like pretty traditional stuff.

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