Sometimes it seems in Washington that you need a scorecard to keep track of the players. Witness the lobbying over legislation to overhaul the nation's electric industry.
First: Americans for Affordable Electricity (AAE), a coalition of industry and consumer groups lobbying for legislation to restructure the electric industry, announced the appointment of Andrea Spring as the group's new executive director. She succeeds Katherine Horne, now a manager of government relations at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Spring most recently was a legislative assistant to Rep. Edward G. Bryant (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Commerce Committee's energy subcommittee, which approved federal restructuring legislation (HR 2944) in October. Bryant wasn't exactly an ally of AAE, according to a coalition supporter, although Spring says his concern was mostly about the bill's impact on the Tennessee Valley Authority, not central to AAE.
The coalition, which includes Enron Corp., the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and others, will continue to lobby for an amendment to the bill that would make clear that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has jurisdiction over all interstate transmission lines and make sure there is fair access to the lines. Coalition members are big energy users and want more competition in the energy marketplace.
"We are very fortunate to have Andrea on our side," AAE's national chairman, Bill Paxon, a former House Republican from New York, said in a prepared statement. "She knows the issues, knows the players, and knows how to help turn HR 2944 into a bill that can pass this Congress."
But as AAE was gaining Spring, it was losing its outside counsel and strong advocate Elizabeth Anne "Betsy" Moler, the former FERC chairwoman during whose term the agency issued rules that required electric utilities to open their transmission lines to rival power companies, giving utilities across the country a huge push toward competition.
Now a partner at the law firm Vinson & Elkins, Moler is joining Unicom Corp., a Chicago area utility, as senior vice president for federal government affairs. Upon completion of the company's pending merger with PECO Energy, she will head the combined company's Washington office.
Her new boss, Unicom chief executive John W. Rowe, will be the new chairman next June of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association of investor-owned electric utility companies.
"We're sorry to see her move on," Paxon said in an interview yesterday.
Moler noted that the utility industry itself is divided on the legislation and some EEI utilities are also members of AAE. She also said Unicom and PECO operate in states that already allow customers to choose where they buy their electricity.
"Some people will raise some eyebrows [about her new job]. But I feel comfortable," said Moler, who chaired FERC from 1993 to 1997 and was deputy energy secretary from 1997 to 1998.
As the lobbyists regroup next year to continue the fight over federal regulation, some members of AAE are hoping that Paxon will take an aggressive lobbying role. Out of Congress for a year as of January, Paxon will be free from restrictions against buttonholing his former colleagues in the House.
In the interview, Paxon discouraged talk that he would become a direct lobbying presence. He said his role is "strategic management of the issue," outlining the game plan, and he expects that to continue next year.
He did add, however, that "if the opportunity presents itself," he might do some actual lobbying. And in a recent AAE press release about Spring's hire, Paxon said, "I welcome the opportunity to meet with members [of Congress] in January to discuss our positions concerning federal restructuring legislation."
Patton Boggs, Meet Elliott Abrams
The government of Peru may have signed up D.C. lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs to help clean up its antidemocratic image on the Hill, but Baruch Ivcher, the Peruvian television station owner who was forced into exile, has the assertive Elliott Abrams.
Ivcher's citizenship was revoked after he aired reports damaging to President Alberto Fujimori's government. Both houses of Congress this fall passed resolutions accusing Fujimori of manipulating Peru's electoral authorities and intimidating journalists.
Peru's prime minister was in New York yesterday and, in an interview with the Associated Press, denied charges of a government harassment campaign but acknowledged isolated acts of intimidation by local authorities.
Abrams, an assistant secretary of state for human rights in the Reagan administration, said he has known Ivcher for about 10 years. In light of the government turning to Patton Boggs, Abrams said he filed a "defensive" lobby registration "in case I have to do something on the Hill next year."
And (by way of the AP) as Peru Foreign Minister Fernando de Trazegnies said in a radio interview in October: "He who has no lobby loses."
Democratic Activist to NARAL
Alice Travis Germond, a Democratic activist and political consultant, is the new executive vice president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
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