Firm Applies to Lobby for Rights Group

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, September 28, 2006

Civil rights, says Wade Henderson , president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, is not a partisan issue. And true to its beliefs, the conference has relied for some time on bipartisan PodestaMattoon for "strategic guidance" and communications support.

Catching up on its work for the Leadership Conference on the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, passed this summer, PodestaMattoon recently filed a lobby registration for the first time for the conference. Its earlier work apparently did not rise to the level of actual lobbying and did not require filing with Congress, Henderson and a PodestaMattoon spokeswoman said.

Named on the form as the lobbyists for the conference were Democrat Tony Podesta and Republican Daniel J. Mattoon , a confidant of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

"This Congress for us was a classic example of bipartisanship. You simply can't pass a civil rights bill in this Congress without Democratic and Republican votes," Henderson said.

PodestaMattoon is also providing strategic analysis on trends, such as health care as an emerging civil rights issue, Henderson said.

But, at least for the time being, the conference has not called on the lobby shop for help on its fight over a House-passed bill that would require voters to obtain and show government-issued photo identification before entering the polling booths. Henderson calls it a 21st-century poll tax that would discourage voters from coming forward to cast their ballots.

The conference and other national groups are buttonholing and calling senators this week to persuade them to vote down the measure before the lawmakers leave town to campaign for the November elections. The coalition also includes such groups as AARP, Common Cause, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the NAACP.

PhRMA Looks to Close 'Doughnut Hole'

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) has added another consulting shop to its stable of lobbyists and public relations advisers -- and just in time to deal with angry seniors and their lawmakers over the Medicare "doughnut hole" issue.

Millions of seniors are facing a temporary break in their new federal drug benefit coverage. The "doughnut hole" was one of the most contentious aspects of the 2003 legislation, which provided the prescription benefit starting this past January, but then ends it once a senior meets an annual spending limit. After the senior pays thousands out of pocket, the benefit resumes.

PhRMA has hired Qorvis Communications for an 18-month, most likely multimillion-dollar contract to educate the public and lawmakers about the drug benefit, and to perform other assignments as requested. Qorvis's Rich Masters said the drug manufacturers believe some tweaks in the legislation may be necessary but "we shouldn't go back and rewrite the legislation."

Qorvis and PhRMA officials demur at talking about money, but the Qorvis people concede it's a "big" account, though not so big as their work for perhaps their most famous client, Saudi Arabia.

The communications shop recently brought on five new folks to help with the PhRMA job: Quin Hillyer, a senior editor at the American Spectator and former press secretary for then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston (R-La.); Eric Alvarez , a former CBS reporter and anchor; Kathleen Corcoran , public relations director for Volunteers of America; Jarrett Bens , former director of Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research; and Kathleen Michael , former assistant managing editor of the Pink Sheet, a daily publication covering the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

Already on hand are Masters, a former policy and communications adviser to Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), and Kristen Perkins , a former producer for CourtTV and CBS.

The work for PhRMA, besides being financially rewarding and interesting, will also help Qorvis launch a health-care practice.

"This gives us a huge marquee health-care client, and we'll pursue other health-care clients," Masters said. "It opens up doors for us to a lot of other business."

Allbaugh Becomes a Gulf Coast Force

Joe Allbaugh , head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency before Michael Brown, seems to continue cleaning up by lobbying for clients who want to clean up the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Most recently, the Allbaugh Co. -- and Joe Allbaugh, specifically -- registered to lobby on behalf of two Louisiana clients, the Unified Recovery Group of Baton Rouge, a debris removal and reconstruction consultant, and Barowka & Bonura of Metairie, an engineering company. In both cases, the lobbying issue cited was "Hurricane Katrina Recovery Efforts." Earlier, he filed on behalf of River Birch Inc., an environmental waste disposal company in Harvey, La., for Katrina recovery efforts.

Here and There

Moving about town . . . Jaylyn Jensen , a legislative analyst for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has joined computer company Lenovo as director of government relations for North America.

David Dreher , a legislative aide to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), has joined the Campaign for America's Wilderness as a government affairs representative.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company