An item in yesterday's Special Interests column on a new strategic consulting firm, Quinn, Gillespie & Associates, incorrectly said Policy Impact Communications, an issues-oriented public relations firm where Edward Gillespie worked, would end its affiliation with Barbour, Griffith and Rogers. (Published 11/19/99)

Time Warner Inc. is opting out of the "soft money" system.

The communications giant announced yesterday that it will no longer hand out any unlimited contributions to political parties after giving millions of dollars in corporate funds in recent elections.

"We have had a growing concern about the current system of financing and conducting political campaigns," said a statement from chief executive Gerald M. Levin and president Richard D. Parsons. "The impact of soft money and the prevalence of highly expensive, often negative advertising are increasingly distorting the electoral process."

Instead, the company--which owns Time magazine, CNN and a host of cable news systems--is putting its financial muscle behind the campaign finance reform movement, donating $50,000 to the anti-soft money Committee for Economic Development and announcing plans to spend an additional $2 million-plus beefing up its coverage of the 2000 campaign.

It's unclear what impact the move will have on the company's efforts to lobby here at a time when political giving has become an increasingly important part of many legislative affairs shops.

"I think there might be a few places where we're going to have to work harder to make our case on the merits," said Tim Boggs, senior vice president and the company's chief in-house lobbyist. Last year, Time Warner also spent $3 million on an array of outside lobbying firms, including Williams & Jensen, the Duberstein Group and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.

Time Warner is not the only big corporation to say no to soft money. In recent years, AlliedSignal Inc., pharmaceutical giant Monsanto Co. and General Motors Corp. have taken the step. The Time Warner PAC, which gives about $500,000 a year to federal candidates, will stay in business.

Quinn, Gillespie--Bipartisan Bonding

Talk about a bipartisan lobby shop. Jack Quinn, President Clinton's former White House counsel, and Edward Gillespie, a former top aide to House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), are going into business together.

The new firm will be known as Quinn, Gillespie & Associates.

Quinn, who was traveling and could not be reached for comment, will leave his law partnership at Arnold & Porter, Gillespie said. Gillespie's issues-oriented PR firm, Policy Impact Communications, will stay in business but end its affiliation with the Republican lobby shop of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers.

Gillespie, former policy and communications director for Armey and former director of communications and congressional affairs for the Republican National Committee, says he's not worried about his Republican bona fides being questioned because of his new partnership.

"Being in a bipartisan firm doesn't make you bipartisan. It makes you the Republican in a bipartisan firm," Gillespie said. "I think Republicans should lobby Republicans."

Quinn and Gillespie worked together on the lobby campaign of the Coalition for Encryption Reform and other matters, developing a deep professional respect, Gillespie said. But they also developed a friendship, co-chairing an annual Washington dinner benefiting the Flax Trust, a charity to promote peace among Catholics and Protestants in Belfast.

Upon hearing of the new venture between the two lobbyists, Gillespie reported, Armey said, "That's not bipartisan--that's Irish!"

So far, they have only a "potential client base," Gillespie said, because they haven't opened up shop yet. Gillespie's clients have included the American Hospital Association, the Recording Industry Association of America and TechNet, a coalition of high-tech firms. Quinn's clients have included Bell Atlantic Corp., the Civil Justice Reform Group and Metlife.

No Relief for Claritin

Did the Senate Judiciary Committee have an "allergy attack," as one consumer activist quipped, to patent legislation sought by Schering-Plough Corp. on behalf of its antihistamine Claritin?

The panel had been scheduled yesterday to mark up the bill, which would have allowed Schering-Plough and several other companies to plead their case for three years of added patent protection before a special patent review board. Instead, the committee pulled the bill, postponing action probably until next year.

Opponents of the bill say the committee punted because of growing public scrutiny of the legislation. Generic drug manufacturers and consumer lobbyists contend that the measure is designed to prevent competition and would result in higher drug costs for individuals.

Schering-Plough contends that the legislation is a matter of fairness, that it has faced lengthy regulatory delays.

"The light of day put a damper on this boondoggle," crowed Maura Kealey, deputy director of Congress Watch, the lobbying arm of Public Citizen.

But a committee staffer said the panel delayed action because it had run out of time. A spokesman for the bill's sponsor, Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), said action was delayed by mutual agreement among committee members and Torricelli and that support for the bill remains strong.

A Schering-Plough spokeswoman said the company will continue to pursue the legislation.

The bill's opponents are staying on alert just in case it should pop up in Congress's waning hours before Thanksgiving recess.

"This legislation is the Energizer Bunny of the 106th Congress--it keeps going and going and going," said G. Thomas Long, a lobbyist for the National Pharmaceutical Alliance, a coalition of generic drug manufacturers and distributors.