When it comes to battling to keep the bankers out of the real estate biz, the National Association of Realtors has not been shy about getting outside lobbying firepower. But in the not-taking-any-chances category, the Realtors are bringing some new banking expertise in house.
The Realtors have hired James F. "Jeff" Lischer, who has been legislative counsel at the Office of Thrift Supervision since 1998 and earlier was assistant general counsel for legislation at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Lischer will start June 21 as financial service policy representative.
"I think it's a coup on our part to get someone of his talents," said Joseph M. Ventrone, managing director of the regulatory and industry relations department of the Realtors group. Ventrone joined the association last year after serving as senior policy adviser at the Federal Housing Finance Board and earlier as deputy staff director of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services -- now the Committee on Financial Services -- and a member of the Bush transition team at HUD.
For the past two years, the Realtors have stalled the bankers from infringing on their turf by securing a rider to an appropriations measure that prevented the Treasury Department from implementing a regulation that would have allowed banks to expand into the real estate business. The Realtors are going for a third year. It's either the rider route or reopen a law enacted several years ago to allow banks to enter the insurance and securities business and other areas judged by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to be financial in nature -- and "it took 20 years to get" agreement on that law, Ventrone said.
Still at OTS, Lischer simply said that the Realtors' job was a "surprising opportunity."
The American Bankers Association isn't retiring from the field. Edward Yingling, executive vice president of the ABA, said the bankers will slug it out at appropriations.
"To us, it's a long-term issue. . . . We've got the time. . . . We'll fight the good fight," he said.
Training Young Voices
This isn't really lobbying, but a $5 million grant from Bernard L. Schwartz, chief executive of Loral Space & Communications Ltd., is going to help the New America Foundation increase its efforts to bring new -- and young -- voices to public policy debates.
The grant is for New America's fellows program, renamed the Bernard L. Schwartz Fellows Program. Schwartz will join the think tank's board of directors. Steven C. Clemons, executive vice president of New America, said the grant was the nonpartisan tank's single biggest donation from an individual and represents "a big commitment."
Schwartz is a major contributor to Democratic candidates and organizations, including the Democratic Leadership Council and the New Democrat Network, but he says there are no strings as to what the fellows must study and write about. The idea of the New America fellows taking a long-term view of public policy issues "without partisanship is valuable," Schwartz said in an interview yesterday. He said he sees his grant as helping to "bring some diversity to the debate."
Leaving Powell for AAAS
Speaking of think-tank types of folks . . . Norman Neureiter, most recently science and technology adviser to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, has moved over to the American Association for the Advancement of Science as director of its new Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy.
The association earlier this year received a $2.25 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to build connections between scientists and academics and federal policymakers involved in anti-terrorism and national security issues.
Furthermore . . . David A. Sutphen, formerly a senior vice president at the Recording Industry Association of America, has joined entertainment giant Viacom as vice president for government affairs and legislative counsel. Before joining RIAA, Sutphen served as general counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee and as chief of staff to Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.).
Rob Housman is reuniting with his old boss, retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, at Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations, where McCaffrey co-chairs the firm's homeland security practice. Housman was assistant director of strategic planning at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under McCaffrey during the Clinton administration. Before joining Fleishman-Hillard's lobbying team, Housman headed his own firm, the Housman Group.
The American Psychiatric Association is bolstering its lobbying crew. Maria H. Castillo, a Hill veteran most recently an aide to Rep. Gerald D. Kleczka (D-Wis.), starts as deputy director for federal affairs June 1 and will focus on the House side. Andrew M. Whitman, who has practiced health care law and was senior counsel in the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, started last week as deputy director for regulatory affairs.
Robert C. Geist Jr., former press secretary to Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), has joined Foley & Lardner as a public affairs director.
Tom Gann, former vice president of government affairs for Siebel Systems, is joining Digimarc Corp. as vice president of government relations.