In his battle to win a business dispute over control of a Czech television station, cosmetics executive Ronald S. Lauder has hired American Continental Group to lobby in Congress. The registration says the specific issue is "U.S. aid to the Czech Republic," a description that puzzles Martin Weiss, spokesman for the Czech Embassy here. He said his country receives no direct foreign aid from the United States.

Shawn H. Smeallie, managing director of the lobby firm, didn't return calls. A Lauder spokeswoman said his hiring wasn't aimed at any specific legislation, but is part of an ongoing effort "designed to draw the attention of the public and policymakers to the dangerous investment conditions" in the Czech Republic.

As part of that effort, Lauder, a former ambassador to Austria and a major Republican Party donor, took out full-page ads in The Washington Post and the New York Times on Monday attacking the Czech government for siding with a former partner who allegedly took over the station. The ads appeared the same day Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman met with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

Reps. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the International Relations Committee, and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), a member of the committee who knows Lauder, wrote Zeman last week, expressing concern about the matter and dropping hints they might hold hearings on the treatment of U.S. investors in Eastern Europe.

A State Department official said the quarrel is being addressed in an arbitration panel set up under a bilateral investment treaty.

New Head of the Roundtable

Robert N. Burt, chairman and chief executive of the FMC Corp., has been elected chairman of the Business Roundtable, replacing Dana G. Mead. "My charge is to ensure that the Roundtable continues to play a major role in setting the course for America on key public policy issues, from trade to health care, education to the environment," Burt said in a statement. The Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of major corporations with a combined work force of more than 10 million employees in the United States.

And on the organized labor side . . . Bob Powers has moved from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America to the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, where he is legislative director.

Electrons March on Washington

And now, the virtual lobby. Edward Segal, a former Hill staff member for Republican and Democratic lawmakers, has joined up with Taxsoft Inc., a Bethesda software company, to set up to lobby on behalf of Internet users.

The lobby went online earlier this week at The group's position on issues will be determined by online referendums of its members. Annual dues are $9.95 for individuals who join before Jan. 1; then they rise to $19.95.

Segal said Internet users need someone to represent their interests, particularly as Microsoft, America Online and other high-tech companies beef up their own lobbying teams in Washington. "Internet users shouldn't be left out in the cold," Segal said.


Sally Aman, most recently managing director of Chlopak, Leonard, Schecter & Associates and earlier communications director for Tipper Gore, has joined Trahan, Burden & Charles in the Baltimore-based advertising and public relations company's newly opened Washington office.

Thaddeus J. Burns, formerly with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Geneva, where he was U.S. intellectual property attache to the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization, has joined Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld's public law and policy practice in Brussels.

Karen M. Alcorn, previously associate vice president for public affairs at the Health Industry Manufacturers Association, joins Hill and Knowlton as managing director in the health and pharmaceutical practice.

Car Makers Unite

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, formed in January as a successor to the disbanded American Automobile Manufacturers Association, has been bulking up.

New hires include Gregory J. Dana, vice president of environmental affairs, formerly vice president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) and a policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency; John T. Whatley, assistant general counsel, formerly assistant general counsel at AIAM and a lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis; Katherine M. Horne, manager of government affairs, formerly executive director of Americans for Affordable Electricity; Scott Aliferis, manager of government affairs, formerly legislative director for Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and staff co-chair of the Congressional Automotive Caucus; and Kimberly J. Ashton, state affairs manager, formerly a field operations associate for the American Petroleum Institute.


Changing times . . . the United States Telephone Association has changed its name to the United States Telecom Association to reflect the group's expansion to companies that have invested in facilities-based networks and provide public switched wire or wireless services. Of its 1,200 member companies, almost 600 are Internet service providers, 325 offer long distance service, more than 300 offer wireless services and 150 provide broadband services.