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The Week In Abramoff He speaks! It’s rare when Jack Abramoff goes on the record these days, but thanks to an advance copy of an April 2006 Vanity Fair story (which was passed around D.C. faster than Abramoff’s infamous “troglodyte” e-mail), everyone from K Street to the folks on the reservation had some fresh Abramoff soundbites to chew on last week. “You’re really no one in this town if you haven’t met me,” opined the disgraced ex-lobbyist, who noted he had turned down a “seven-figure” offer for pictures of him hobnobbing with President Bush. Greenberg Traurig CEO Cesar Alvarez likely got some fresh indigestion when Abramoff recalled him saying: “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” A firm spokeswoman declined to comment on the story. Abramoff also hypothesizes about who ratted him out to reporters, fingering old rivals jealous of the huge fees he earned representing Indian tribes. So who blabbed? Friends and former friends of Abramoff point in the direction of “lobbyists close to McCain,” fusing two of Abramoff’s nemeses into one. An alternate theory points to Emily Miller, a former communications aide to former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas), who was once engaged to Abramoff confidant Michael Scanlon. Scanlon reportedly broke off the engagement with Miller, who is best known for grabbing a camera during a Meet The Press interview with her old boss Colin Powell. On another Abramoff front, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern demanded that Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), whom Abramoff has implicated in taking bribes, should resign if Abramoff “names him.” Ney might need to watch out. Redfern’s statement came one day after Abramoff’s D.C. attorney, Abbe Lowell, threatened in a telephone conference to publicly “name names” if Abramoff’s Miami sentencing date on wire fraud charges weren’t significantly pushed back from its current March 16th date. Unmoved, the judge granted only a two-week delay. — Andy Metzger
Whom Ma Bell Tolls Too early to tell, says Bill McCloskey, a spokesman for BellSouth, what may happen to the Baby Bell’s formidable lobbying apparatus after it merges with AT&T. Yet the acquiring company, in this case AT&T, is generally the one that drives the process. “AT&T has been a well-respected and oiled machine . . . the AT&T folks will likely stick around,” says Ross Buntrock, a lawyer who specializes in telecom issues at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. “BellSouth hasn’t been as aggressive on the regulatory initiatives. The conventional wisdom is that there will be a paring away of most of the BellSouth team. The same goes for their outside counsel.” And that outside counsel includes some heavy-hitting shops, such as PodestaMattoon, Cassidy & Associates, and e-Copernicus. The final merger is at least a year away, but, according to one telecom lobbyist, there is growing concern on the Hill over the “march to consolidation” under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. “What I’m hearing is that they just don’t know where the consolidation stops,” says the lobbyist. “Some members of Congress, telecom guys, didn’t really believe one of the major effects [of the Telecom Act] would be rapid consolidation. The Bell mergers have all been horizontal mergers. It’s not one company gobbling up a competitor.” — Joe Crea
Stitches, Stat! The bleeding continues over at Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations. The firm previously insisted that the exit of four senior lobbyists at the end of 2005 was “strategic,” but it has since lost three more lobbyists. “The dust hasn’t settled yet,” says Paul Sweet, vice president of FHGR. Last week former Department of Health and Human Services official Jerome Hauer left FHGR after just a year as chair of the homeland security practice. Hauer had secured government contracts for clients such as Codespear and Defense Group Inc. His exit followed that of Senior Vice President A. Bailey Wood Jr. A former communications director for the House Homeland Security Committee, Wood had barely gotten his business cards when he was shown the door in February after five months at FHGR (Wood declined to comment on the reasons for his abrupt departure from the firm). Longtime California rainmaker John MacCamman also left FHGR in January to hang his own shingle, forming National Policy Strategy. According to Sweet, Fleishman-Hillard subsidiary Mercury Public Affairs has taken over “management responsibilities” for clients. Matthew LaRocco, general manager of the firm, did not return several phone calls seeking comment. — Anna Palmer
Kitchen’s Closed Things just keep getting worse for the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. Despite its lobbying efforts, the D.C. Council overwhelmingly passed a smoking ban earlier this year for nearly all District bars and restaurants. Now comes last week’s Senate voice vote to ban meals between lawmakers and lobbyists. Lynne Breaux (no relation to prominent lobbyist John Breaux), executive director of the association, says she is “very concerned.” So concerned that she is teaming up with the National Restaurant Association’s John Gay to lobby the House on blocking such a ban. The Restaurant Association sent a letter to Hill lawmakers in early February urging them to oppose the meal restrictions. “In all facets of life, meals provide an opportunity for people to get to know one another and share ideas,” read the letter, signed by Gay and Steven Anderson, the group’s president. “It’s just frustrating and disappointing,” says Gay, senior vice president of government affairs and public policy. “It’s encouraging with [House Majority Leader John] Boehner’s (R-Ohio) election as leader and his take on this, which is, �Let’s take a breath and not go overboard.’ But this is so inside baseball. It’s such an easy issue to demagogue.” Bryan Voltaggio, executive chef at Charlie Palmer Steak — a favorite watering hole for pols and lobbyists — acknowledges that the bulk of his business is from the Hill. “Everyone is in a waiting period,” he says, and is uncertain if such a ban will actually make it into law. Just last August, while the Abramoff scandal was still on low burn, Voltaggio remodeled his restaurant to accommodate more private dining of the type used for lobbyist fund raising. With reform in the air, he is reaching out to pharmaceutical companies, law firms, and other businesses. “It’s taken some time for us to develop our brand, but we are more than a cafeteria for the Hill,” he says. — Joe Crea
LDA. What LDA? A standard rallying cry for lobbyists these days is that an overwhelming majority of K Streeters play by the rules. So why punish the innocent majority to root out a few bad apples? But an analysis of recent Senate lobbying disclosure registrations pokes a hole in that theory: Most lobbyists don’t play by one basic rule. A full 64 percent of the 95 lobby registrations released by the Senate Office of Public Records this month were filed by lobbyists more than 45 days after they began work for a new client, a violation of the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act. What happens when the Senate gets a registration months after the deadline? Apparently, not much. “We can only refer [a violator to the U.S. Attorney's Office] when someone has failed to respond to a written request from us in 60 days,” says Pam Gavin, the Senate public records superintendent. “We are supposed to refer when we don’t get an appropriate response, or a stick-it-in-your-ear response,” she adds. Gavin estimates that since 2003 her office has referred more than 2,100 lobbyists to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, with two of the referrals ending in settlements. The status of the roughly 2,098 others, she says, is undetermined. With tough-talking lawmakers jockeying to one-up one another on lobby reform, the days of breaking the rules at will are soon to end, right? Not quite. For now, at least, all of the lobby reform proposals floating around the Hill leave the language governing timeliness of lobby registrations from the 1995 LDA unchanged. — Andy Metzger
No Safe Harbor The deal may be dead, but as of now APCO Worldwide is still working for Dubai Ports World, the state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates caught in a bitter Capitol Hill firefight over its attempted takeover of operations for six major U.S. ports from British company P&O. B. Jay Cooper, deputy managing director of APCO’s Washington office, says that APCO is “not on the Hill lobbying” but has been providing “strategic counsel and media support” to the much-maligned company. Whether the firm will continue to represent the Dubai company in the future has not been discussed yet, Cooper says. It first approached APCO six weeks ago while it was bidding to take over from P&O. The deal was initially treated in the media as a routine business story. But when the bidding came down to Dubai Ports World and a Singapore company, the story rapidly gained steam in the United States, with much attention paid to the UAE’s alleged ties to radical groups. APCO was enlisted to help defuse the issue. Better luck next time. — Joe Crea
That’s the Way It Is CBS Corp. is re-creating its old D.C. office and dusting off its chief lobbyist, John Orlando, to spearhead it. The new office was created after Viacom and CBS split, on Jan. 1. Viacom will lobby on behalf of its various cable channels, while CBS will lobby for its television and radio stations, broadcast networks, outdoor advertising, publisher Simon & Schuster, and Paramount theme parks, in addition to its two cable-programming entities, Showtime and College Sports Television. CBS has registered with the Senate on an array of curious items, including the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2005 — “a Showtime thing,” Orlando says — and the Prevention of Childhood Obesity Act, which will deal with advertising fatty foods during children’s-television-programming hours. — Joe Crea

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