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It might seem like a no-brainer that lobbyists would lobby on pending lobbying reform. After all, this one is personal and they get paid to spin lawmakers every day. But in the wake of the Abramoff scandal, most of K Street is staying mum, at least publicly, on the proposed legislation. No matter how close to home certain measures may get, many lobbyists say they will steer clear of the reform debate. “Our attitude is we’ll abide by whatever they pass,” says Mike House, head of Hogan & Hartson’s lobbying operation. Some lobbyists say they are relying on associations like the American League of Lobbyists and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to guard their interests and influence legislation. So far the Lobby League has been most active, meeting with individual members who are sponsoring reform proposals. President Paul Miller says his group will meet this week to devise a more comprehensive strategy. The Chamber is having in-house and outside counsel review the provisions before taking action. The Chamber’s Bruce Josten says he doesn’t expect to get into the mix on Capitol Hill until there is a better sense of which proposals will move forward. Already a proposed overhaul of the gift ban is prompting the National Restaurant Association to lobby on the potential impact for its members. Not all lobbying firms are waiting for Congress to act before changing policies. Cassidy & Associates is restricting the use of its MCI Center skybox to internal use and client development. “We’ve decided, given the current environment, that we’re not going to give away tickets at any face value to anybody who’s employed on the Hill,” says Gregg Hartley, Cassidy’s chief operating officer. Also, Arent Fox has added a mandatory ethics class for its lobbyists. The reforms could also have a major impact on former Hill staffers looking for jobs. With lawmakers proposing an expansion of the one-year lobbying ban to two years for ex-staffers, lawyers say it could lower initial salary packages. “It’s a long time to have to invest in somebody before they can go back and talk to their old bosses,” says Rich Gold, head of Holland & Knight’s lobby practice. He has a point. After all, two years ago Jack Abramoff was still the toast of Washington.
Anna Palmer can be contacted at [email protected].

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