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Lobby Group's 'No Dough' Strategy Stops at Executives' Doors

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The National Association of Manufacturers, one of Washington's oldest and most deeply established trade groups, has an unconventional streak.

Most lobbies are eager to shower politicians they like (or need) with campaign contributions, and proudly maintain political action committees to do so. They also try to keep their executives' salaries from growing conspicuously large, for reasons of good public relations and common sense.

NAM apparently has a different view on both issues.

In a newsletter called Association Bisnow, the group's president, John M. Engler, said he is glad not to have a PAC and is happy to be unable to give money away to candidates for federal office. In an article headlined "Engler Has a 'No Dough' Strategy," the former Michigan governor said, "It's nice walking into someone's office knowing that you did not spend money to defeat them."

I guess the pleasure that other lobbyists feel walking into the offices of lawmakers that they helped to put there is not as heady an experience.

In any case, Engler's no-dough strategy does not extend to the executives at his trade group.

Compensation for its top officers and key staff members rose 30 percent in 2006, according to tax records first obtained by CEO Update magazine. Engler received the biggest increase, taking home $1.2 million in compensation, a 42 percent rise from 2005.

Jay Timmons, NAM's senior vice president for policy and government relations, received $501,000 in pay last year. In 2005, he earned $228,975 for roughly three months of work after joining the trade group in September of that year. LeAnne Wilson, NAM's chief operating officer, received $249,000 in compensation in 2006, a 54 percent boost.

The industry that NAM represents has not been doing nearly as well as the trade group's senior executives. According to Federal Reserve data, U.S. manufacturing rose about 5 percent in 2006 compared with 2005.

Mailer Madness in Virginia

Former congressman Robert L. Livingston (R-La.) is fuming over a mailing by the Democratic Party of Virginia that attacks one of his firm's lobbyists, Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R-Va.).

The flier, which says it was paid for by the party and authorized by Hugo's Democratic challenger, Rex Simmons, asserts that Hugo "lobbied for a company under government investigation for unethical contracts in Iraq."

A footnote on the mailer indicates that the company was CACI International, an Arlington-based government contractor that the Livingston Group once lobbied for.

It turns out that the group never lobbied on Iraq matters for CACI -- it tried to help CACI with government contracts in the United States, and Livingston ended its relationship with the company in June 2004, by coincidence a month after it first came to light that a CACI interrogator had worked at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

More importantly, Hugo never lobbied for CACI.

Livingston attacked the mailer as "the ultimate dirty trick" and said, "We are considering litigation."

But the party, asked about the mailer last week, backed away from its words. "The piece should have been more clear about Tim Hugo and his lobbyist connections," Danae Jones of Virginia's Democratic Party said via e-mail. "It was a company represented by Hugo's firm that has come under investigation. We apologize for the confusion."

Ethical Reconsiderations

Ethics rules continue to stir controversy, especially now that a new lobbying law is in place. One lobbying gimmick I mentioned in last week's column, for example, caused a red flag to be raised.

Jan W. Baran, an ethics expert at the law firm Wiley Rein, said that the Air Conditioning Contractors of America might want to rethink its "Hot Team" idea. You may remember that the group proudly dispatched local air-conditioning contractors to the homes of lawmakers in need, and then asked its lobbyists to stop by the grateful lawmakers' offices to chat with them about legislative matters.

Baran said it might be better in the future for the lobby group to ask its contractors to charge the lawmakers who get the quick service a little extra beyond the normal retail price to compensate for showing up so quickly. Regular folks have to buy a special contract to get that kind of rapid service, and lawmakers should be charged roughly the same amount to avoid a breach of the gift ban, Baran said.

Kenneth A. Gross of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom agreed: "Sending out air-conditioning servicemen on a special basis could indeed be a problem."

The other ethics item in last week's column -- the one that said a lobbyist who wants to give an engagement ring to a Senate staff member should first seek permission from the staff member's boss and maybe the ethics committee -- also created a dispute. Fred Wertheimer of the gadfly group Democracy 21 and Gross said no permission is needed; the rules already exempt such a special gift from the ban. But Baran and the original tipster, Darryl D. Nirenberg of Patton Boggs, say that asking in advance is the wiser course.

Luckily, now there's a place where such disagreements can be hashed out. The law firm Perkins Coie has started a new ethics law Web site, http://www.lawandethicsonline.com. Essays and blogs will be all the rage there. Go to it, gang!

Hire of the Week

Gain one, lose one -- that seems to be pattern these days with all the comings and going between Congress and K Street.

It's not been announced yet, but Dean Aguillen, a multipurpose aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), will soon be employed by Ogilvy Government Relations, a fast-growing and formerly all-Republican lobbying shop.

Coming the other direction, I hear, is Jesse McCollum, a lobbyist for the National Beer Wholesalers Association. McCollum will soon join the office of Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) as chief of staff. McCollum was hired by the beer wholesalers in February after nearly four years as a legislative assistant to Rep. Ed olphus Towns (D-N.Y.).

Why so quick a turnaround? "Public service is what I moved to Washington . . . for, and I'm incredibly happy to get back to it after a brief hiatus in the private sector," McCollum said via e-mail.

Please send e-mail to kstreet@washpost.com.

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