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Chest Pounding The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has pulled out its scalpel and is looking to take a slice or two from the world of medical reimbursements. Recently, the D.C. firms Valis & Associates and Jeffrey J. Kimbell & Associates registered with the U.S. Senate to lobby on behalf of the Chicago organization, which represents more than 4,800 chest surgeons. As Valis notes on the registration form, the surgeon society is pushing to amend a bill to curtail doctors’ exposure to malpractice liability and is lobbying to change the Medicare physician-payment systems. Late last year the society also rolled out an “Expert Review and Witness Registry,” a pool of member witnesses available to lawyers seeking experts in malpractice cases. “We’ve been struggling internally with the right venues of getting the word out to the legal community, and this is one thing that our organization has done in an effort to increase expert testimony. Even if our guys get nailed, it will at least be based on credible testimony,” says Robert Wynbrandt, the society’s executive director and general counsel. The society’s initial efforts to market its pool of experts have been primarily through its membership, though it is planning to discuss the registry with the American Bar Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Of the 12 requests that have come into the registry to date, seven have been from plaintiffs and five have been from the defense side. Grahame Rush, the society’s governance manager and the point person for the registry, says that 353 of their members have signed up as potential witnesses. — Joe Crea
Earnings Reports War, disease, and natural disasters — signs of the apocalypse or business opportunities for lobbyists? Perhaps both, judging by lobby disclosure reports covering the last six months of 2005, which the Senate Office of Public Records released last week. Alston & Bird reported a cool $2 million in earnings from its health care lobbying practice, which it poured resources into building last year. The biggest cash cows: HealthSouth Corp. ($260,000), the Renal Leadership Council ($180,000), and the Alzheimer’s Association ($160,000). Meanwhile, New Orleans-based Adams & Reese reported earning $130,000 in fees specifically from Hurricane Katrina-related lobbying for Louisiana clients, including Blossman Propane Gas ($40,000), Cleco Corp. ($40,000), and the West Jefferson Levee District ($20,000). Over in the war department, the defense lobby boutique American Defense International reported $2.7 million in fees in its disclosure filings. The firm reported representing 62 defense clients, many of which seemed notable not only for their work but also for having incredibly cool names, such as Metal Storm ($40,000) and Nuclear Protection Products ($60,000). Most of the client roster paid ADI between $40,000 and $60,000 in fees during the last half of 2005. Contracting giant Bechtel Corp., long a favorite target for conspiracy theorists and war opponents, reported spending $240,000 on its in-house lobbying operations during the last half of 2005. That’s in addition to the $110,000 it shelled out to outside lobbying firms — for a total of $350,000 in six months. (But anyone with even a remote knowledge of the lobby biz will tell you that it takes at least $351,000 to control the political-military decision-making apparatus of the United States.) Moving on to other corporations with troubled pasts, Accenture Ltd. reported spending $2 million on its in-house operation, while MCI Inc., which has since been merged into Verizon Corp., reported spending $1 million on its in-house lobbying. But we all know lobbying isn’t just an American game anymore. Like basketball or Texas Hold ‘em, it’s gone international. Records released under the Foreign Agents Registration Act show that when it comes to lobbying, pesos, riyals, and tugrugs are gladly accepted. Venable inked a deal in March with the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, a group representing displaced Serbs who remained in Kosovo after the 1999 NATO intervention (the majority of the Serb population fled the historically Albanian region during the NATO campaign). The deal, which is for $600,000 over a six-month period, calls for Venable to provide the group with “strategic counsel” before Congress and the Bush administration. In other foreign news, Iler Interests LLP reported receiving $165,550 from Saudi Arabia for work to promote the desert kingdom’s “economic,” “educational,” and “political” reforms. The money was doled out via Qorvis Communications, which oversees the Saudis’ massive PR efforts in Washington. Finally, Clark Hill PLC, a Detroit-based law firm, scored $3,920 for teaching what appears to be a civics lesson to the Southern Cameroons National Council. According to its FARA filing, Clark Hill assisted the political party “on a variety of public policy issues, including human rights and the furtherance of democratic principles and values.” Hey, at today’s tuition prices that’s probably cheaper than taking Government 101 at state college. — Andy Metzger

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