The protracted fight over who will receive the $250,000 contract to lobby on behalf of the state university system of Florida appears to be coming to a close.

James C. Pirius, who runs JCP Associates of Alexandria and was the first director of legislative policy at the Department of Education, has a final telephone interview today with the Washington representatives of the Florida universities, and the contract is expected to begin Nov. 1.

The Florida Board of Regents told former House Ways and Means Committee chairman Sam M. Gibbons (D-Fla.) and his son Clifford Gibbons last week that it denied their request to delay a decision awarding the contract to Pirius.

The Gibbonses, whose Gibbons & Co. had lobbied on behalf of the university system under a subcontract, started the battle of appeals earlier this year after learning that the board planned to give the contract to Pirius, whom they claimed was a "phantom lobbyist."

But an administrative law judge in Tallahassee ruled last month in Pirius's favor, recommending that the regents deny the protest. The "findings of fact" noted Pirius's experience at the federal Education Department, as the federal relations representative for the Florida Department of Education, his work at the Washington government affairs firm APCO Associates, and his lobbying for the Indiana and Minnesota departments of education as well as for the University of South Florida.

Sam Gibbons said yesterday that the lobby shop's lawyers have said they have "a number of courses we can pursue" but he didn't know if he would do more. "I love the university system. I've got my heart in it. But things change."

Pirius said he had to put most of his business on hold during the rough fight. "I decided to stay the course," he said. "I knew it would work out."

No More Hold on Pentagon's Money

Peace--for now, at least--has also been reached in a lobbying battle that had resulted in a hold on the nomination of a Defense Department official. Arthur Money recently was confirmed as assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, after being delayed for months because of a fight between senators and the Pentagon over security locks for defense contractors.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) released his hold on Money after the Pentagon agreed to spend on its own security-lock retrofitting program the $4.8 million that Congress had added to the 1999 defense budget. Bunning's state happens to be home to Mas-Hamilton Group Inc., the manufacturer of the only lock that meets DOD security requirements. A tireless advocate for his product, J.D. Hamilton had added Douglas Feith, a D.C. lawyer with a national security reputation, to his lobby team in part to fight any appearance of "pork."

Congress also added $10 million to the recently enacted defense appropriations bill to pay for the new high-tech locks for defense contractors, which many don't want and the Defense Department doesn't believe is a top security priority. Stay tuned for whether the Pentagon will spend that money and what Hamilton will do next.

Quayle Ex-Flack Feted for Flak

And the Second Annual Flack Bash award for the Republican press secretary who has absorbed the most flak in the past year--and dished it out as well--goes to Jonathan Baron, the press secretary to the now-defunct Quayle 2000 campaign.

The award--a most fashionable military flak jacket--will be placed on his shoulders tonight, Masters-style, by last year's winner, Christina Martin, who had been press secretary to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and is now at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.

The bash and the award are sponsored by Edward Gillespie's Policy Impact Communications, a issues-oriented PR firm affiliated with the lobby shop of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers. It's an opportunity to celebrate Republican press secretaries--Gillespie was policy communications director for the House Republican Conference 1993-1995--as well as to enjoy some Guinness stout and Tex-Mex food.

Why honor Baron, who was working for Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) before he signed onto former vice president Dan Quayle's presidential bid in January? "Most of us have to deal with the press and TV reporters. He had to deal with all that and Jay Leno and David Letterman," said Gillespie.

Baron, who's taking some time off before deciding what to do next, praised his former boss: "I wish I could have worked for him longer."

Eagleburger Is a Red Cross Envoy

Lawrence Eagleburger, former assistant to Henry A. Kissinger and secretary of state in his own right during the Bush administration, signs on to the American Red Cross as international ambassador at large--a volunteer job. Bernadine Healy, president of the group, said Eagleburger will provide "strategic advice . . . critical as we increase our voice on policy issues and our involvement in relief and development operations worldwide." Eagleburger is senior foreign policy adviser at the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman and Caldwell.