Unlike many other influential lawmakers, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who is expected to be elected the new House minority leader today, doesn't have a large cadre of ex-staffers who now lobby on behalf of various clients and trade associations and are hoping to cash in on their links to power.

But she did belong to a group of Democratic House members who used to meet frequently for dinner and became great friends. The dinner crowd included fellow Californian Rep. George Miller and now-Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.). The group also included some who are now major players in the lobby biz: Thomas J. Downey (N.Y.), Marty Russo (Ill.) and Vic Fazio Jr. (Calif.).

If anyone knows of the connection, "it's not going to hurt" business, Downey said, "but it's not something we advertise." Downey is chairman of the Downey McGrath Group. His lobbying clients have included ICO Global Communications, the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities and the government of Haiti.

"When you're friends with somebody, you tread very carefully," said Fazio, a partner in Clark & Weinstock. His clients have included Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Russo, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Cassidy & Associates, like the others, preferred to talk about how hard a worker Pelosi is and how they think she'll energize the Democratic Party. "She learned the process. She knows how to get it done," he said. Russo's clients have included the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Johnson & Johnson and Santa Clara University.

Downey said they had dinners at his home on Tuesdays, and sometimes Thursdays as well; his wife, Chris, would cook. When the men took over the conversation talking about children, Pelosi would break in and note that she had five of her own, recalled Downey, adding that his children refer to her as Aunt Nancy.

"We still get together, but not as frequently," he said.

Neel to Lobby for Telecom Association

Roy M. Neel, longtime friend and former aide to vice president Al Gore, has registered to lobby on telecom legislation for SBC, Verizon and BellSouth. He should know their issues -- he was chief executive of the U.S. Telecom Association until early last year.

The major local telephone companies want to throw out an FCC requirement that forces them to lease parts of their high-speed networks to rivals.

Northup to Lead Reproductive Law Center

Nancy Northup, director of the Democracy Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, has been appointed president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. She starts Jan. 13.

Northup, a former consulting attorney at the ACLU and deputy chief appellate attorney at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, succeeds Janet Benshoof.

"For more than 20 years, I have fought to protect and promote reproductive rights through various means, including litigation, grass-roots organizing, lobbying, electoral work and clinic protection," she said in a press release.

In an interview, Northup said the center will be busy in the new Congress working with abortion rights groups to fight the expected push by the Bush administration and GOP lawmakers for legislation to restrict abortion rights.

"Should they go ahead and pass them, we'll meet them in court," Northup said.

New Leader for Community Change Center

Stephanie Robinson, former general counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) has joined the Center for Community Change, a think tank and advocacy organization. She's the group's new national director of public policy.

Earlier this month, the center got a new leader: Deepak Bhargava, former director of public policy at the center and director of the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support.

You Can Always Use Another Smith

How many Smiths are too many? The Smith-Free Group apparently doesn't mind having more. Amy D. Smith, most recently deputy assistant treasury secretary for legislative affairs, has joined the lobby boutique. One of the founders of the shop is Jim Smith, former comptroller of the currency under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. One of the principals is Alicia Smith, a veteran of the Carter White House.

The Smiths are unrelated.

TechNet's Correll Heads to White House

Furthermore . . . Connie Correll, executive vice president of TechNet, a national group of high-tech executives, is joining the Bush administration as counselor and senior adviser to Phil Bond, undersecretary of technology at the Commerce Department. Correll earlier worked for the Information Technology Council and did press for then-Rep. Rick White (R-Wash.) and then-Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.).

Jeffrey A. Lane, vice president for state and local government relations at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, is the new chairman of the Public Affairs Council, which represents corporate public affairs executives, lobbyists and political consultants. The council board elected Gordon M. Thomas, director of government affairs for Textron Inc., chairman for 2004.

Joseph A. Manero has left the American Road & Transportation Builders Association for the Alliance of American Insurers, where he is director of federal public affairs.