Washington lobbyists, spinmeisters, strategic advisers and consultants are paid the big bucks for delivering federal largess to clients. But with the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, a number of lobbyists are digging into their own pockets to help the Gulf Coast survivors.
Gloria Dittus of Dittus Communications, for instance, organized a bus of supplies -- coolers, tarps, water, food and, yes, flip-flops -- that she, James J. Fotis and Kevin Watson of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, lobbyist Willie Meaux, three Dittus staffers and three medical personnel took south last weekend. Lobbyist Kent Knutson and his company, Home Depot, provided flashlights and other goods.
Once they got to Baton Rouge, T. Bradley Keith, state director for Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), led them into Washington Parish, which has had virtually no communications with the outside since the hurricane hit, Keith said. As the Dittus group started setting up the supplies in a small armory, the word spread and within 20 minutes about 100 people had lined up for assistance.
"It made a huge difference to that parish," Keith said.
There's a fundraiser for relief efforts at Dittus's home, 6:30 to 8:30 tonight , hosted also by former Louisiana lawmakers, including some now in the lobbying world, John Breaux, Bennett Johnston, Chris John, Robert Livingston and Billy Tauzin. (Other former Louisiana lawmakers on the host committee include Lindy Boggs and Thomas J. "Jerry" Huckaby.) Some of the other lobbyists involved include Herschel Abbott, Missy Edwards, Mike House, H. Stu Van Scoyoc, Robb Watters and Deborah Sliz. (For information, call 202-715-1507.)
Dittus is an Augusta, Ga., girl with cousins in Alabama and lots of friends in Louisiana. "I'm just really close to the Louisiana delegation," she said. "They adopted me when I came to town."
Cornerstone Government Affairs is also organizing a relief caravan to Jackson, Miss., and Baton Rouge, home to lobbyist Campbell Kaufman. The lobby shop is accepting cereal, breakfast bars, toilet paper, diapers, candles and flashlights, as well as checks (payable to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation) at its office, 300 Independence Ave. SE, through Friday.
On Saturday, Kaufman and friends are taking two to three truckloads and a van to Jackson and Baton Rouge and will stay the week volunteering. Kaufman says his family is still there, one sister has lost her home, and numerous friends have lost everything.
"I'm not going to sit in D.C. and not do anything," he said.
India Picks New Lobby Shop
The government of India has decided on a new lobby shop, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, signing a one-year contract in recent days. The Barbour Griffith lobbyists better keep their new client happy -- India fired Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld last year when it didn't block a U.S. military assistance package to Pakistan.
Interestingly enough, Robert D. Blackwill, former U.S. ambassador to India, is now president of Barbour Griffith & Rogers International, a division of the lobby shop. While ambassador and at the National Security Council, Blackwill promoted closer ties with India. Just this March on a trip to India, Blackwill urged Washington to help India's civilian nuclear industry. President Bush this summer agreed to share civilian nuclear technology with India, a pact that still has to get through Congress.
But please don't think that Blackwill's presence in the company had any thing to do with the new contract or India's interest in the lobby shop.
Andrew Parasiliti, a vice president at Barbour Griffith & Rogers International, said Blackwill is under a one-year ban on representing a foreign government, which does not expire until November. Blackwill "had no part" in the contract negotiations nor will he work on the India account because of the ban, Parasiliti said.
Venu Rajamony, a spokesman for India's embassy here, also said Blackwill had nothing to do with the contract. "We don't see it as linked in any manner," Rajamony said. "We looked at the various alternatives and chose this one."
The contract and the lobby shop's foreign agent registration is in the process of being filed with the Justice Department. Parasiliti and Rajamony declined to discuss fees. Stay tuned.
A Patents-and-Lyrics Specialist
Drinker Biddle & Reath, which has been bolstering its intellectual-property practice of late, has signed on Chris J. Katopis, former director of congressional relations at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
While there is a one-year ban on lobbying the PTO, there is no restriction on Katopis buttonholing lawmakers. He will focus on patent reform, international trademark enforcement -- and songwriter issues. Katopis earlier worked for Rep. Sonny Bono (R-Calif.), the short half of Sonny and Cher. He said Bono had been concerned about record labels taking advantage of songwriters and about the Internet's impact on the music marketplace.
"He always impressed upon us . . . songwriter issues. You really got it from the horse's mouth," Katopis said.
Also about town . . . Chad Wolf, assistant administrator for policy at the Transportation Security Administration, will join Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates next month. The lobby shop had already scored Tom Blank, who was the agency's acting deputy administrator.
Wolf earlier worked for Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.).
Spitfire Strategies, which works on strategic communications for nonprofit organizations and foundations, adds Mary Dwight, previously with Heidepriem and Mager; Colleen Chapman, from the American Cancer Society; and Karin Wallestad, from the American Public Health Association.