Gallaudet Pushes Its Message to Congress

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gallaudet University has taken a beating from its student protesters who oppose the selection of Jane K. Fernandes as the next president of the nation's premier college for the deaf. The nationally televised demonstrations have raged on campus for three weeks, disrupting classes, as disgruntled students complain that Fernandes, who takes office in January, is not a good leader.

But while Gallaudet officials may not have been able to get their message across to the students that she's the best candidate for the job, they have made sure that at least one constituency is getting their side of the story: Congress.

Gallaudet retained Dickstein Shapiro , a Washington-based law and lobbying firm, to "educate" lawmakers about the situation on campus and lobby on appropriations issues.

"We want to make sure that people on the Hill understand the reality of what's happening on campus," said Amy Weiss of Point Blank Public Affairs , who was hired by the university to help with public relations during the crisis.

Gallaudet, like other interest groups and corporations that get caught up in a crisis or are involved in a major transaction, wanted to avoid a situation where some member of Congress gets upset and puts a hold on its federal funding or otherwise gets involved. Federal tax dollars provide nearly 70 percent of the school's budget, or $104.5 million for fiscal 2006, Weiss said.

The Dickstein team includes L. Andrew Zausner , Robert J. Mangas and Allison R. Shulman . Former senator Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) was listed on Dickstein's lobbying filing with Congress, but Weiss said he is not working for Gallaudet. Zausner referred a call to Weiss.

Three members of Gallaudet's board of trustees are from the Hill: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee; and Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey (D-Calif.), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Weiss said the Dickstein folks have been in contact with the staffs of those three lawmakers as well as with the staffs of the Senate and House appropriations and education committees.

Gallaudet is not using its federal dollars to pay Dickstein, Weiss said, noting that the Education of the Deaf Act prohibits the use of appropriated funds for direct lobbying of Congress. She added that the law does not apply to educating lawmakers about activities at Gallaudet.

Think Tank Tries to Bridge Left and Right

The Stanley Foundation is trying a new way of influencing public policy -- getting conservative and liberal foreign policy and national security specialists to talk to each other.

Based in Muscatine, Iowa, where it was founded in 1956 by business executive C. Maxwell Stanley and his wife, Betty, the foundation is pairing up conservatives and liberals and challenging them to find common ground on several controversial areas of policy. Their final papers will be published, beginning in January, and policymakers will be briefed on the results.

Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution are working on a paper on defense strategy and resources. Derek Chollet of the Center for Strategic and International Studies is working with Tod Lindberg of the Hoover Institution on the relationship between U.S. values and national interests. And David Shorr of the Stanley Foundation and Mark Lagon , deputy assistant secretary for international organization affairs at the State Department, are working on a paper on the United Nations and international organizations.

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