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For Campaign Contributions by the Wheelbarrow, the Back Door Is Open

(By Larry Crowe -- Associated Press)
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But the new lobbying restrictions have reined in the festivities a little. Attendees at tomorrow's event can get no more than a single scoop at a time. Cones and disposable cups with plastic spoons will be used -- not fancy plates and silverware -- for fear the event might turn into something approaching a meal, which would be forbidden.

Navigating the ethics rules was "insane," said Tom Sheridan, a lobbyist for the One Campaign. "At one point I said, 'It's not worth it.' " But he persevered, allowing free ice cream to remain a staple on Capitol Hill.

Rejecting the Good Stuff

Washington interest groups usually want more for themselves. Today, one organization will start a crusade to get less.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget plans to unveil a program designed to nudge presidential candidates toward policies that, for a change, would not widen the federal budget deficit and might even narrow it a bit.

Every month, the nonpartisan organization will examine a different policy of each nominee and lay out its costs, subtly applying pressure for austerity.

"That puts us at odds with just about everybody else," said the committee's president, Maya MacGuineas. "The conversation needs to shift to the types of taxes that need to go up and the spending that needs to go down -- quite the opposite of the conversation that normally goes on."

Food Fight

Ethanol makers and food processors are not getting along. The processors complain that rocketing demand for ethanol, a grain-based fuel additive, is forcing up the cost of food, and they don't like that at all. Ethanol makers say such claims are exaggerated.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents companies such as Coca-Cola, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, is getting fairly aggressive. Last week, Scott Riehl, the association's vice president for state affairs, fired off a memo seeking ammunition for further attacks.

According to the memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post, the association is "preparing letters to a number of Governors" and is in need of "Antidotal [sic] Evidence" to show that food price inflation is being fueled by growing ethanol demand.

"Any examples you could quickly provide me would be of great benefit," Riehl wrote to the association's state affairs committee. "What does this inflation mean to the cost of a box of corn flakes, a case of soda, a bag of cookies, pancake mix -- we need to put this in dollars and cents."

Now all of us can look forward to those letters and what we hear will be called the "Food Before Fuel Campaign."

Lose Some, Win Some

The lobbying firm formed by former senators John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) recently lost a major client. When the massive patent-reform bill got bogged down in the Senate, the Coalition for Patent Fairness -- largely a tech industry group -- terminated the firm's contract.

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