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The Mesquite Curtain If you go by the screaming voices currently getting hours of unedited air time on Fox News and CNN, you’d figure that those irate over “lax” border security and overly permissive immigration laws would have swarmed Capitol Hill by now as the debate over immigration reform reaches its apex. You’d be wrong. Of the 17 organizations that have registered to lobby on immigration, only a couple are advocating immigration crackdowns. One is Let Freedom Ring, a Pennsylvania-based conservative group that typically focuses its lobbying efforts on matters such as stem cell research, gay marriage, and countering “leftist 527s.” The other is Monterey, Calif-based Americans for Immigration Control, which notably has called for a five-year moratorium on almost all immigration. Colin Hanna, who heads Let Freedom Ring, is lobbying on behalf of his group, and William Crosby of the Crosby Group, who also works for the Livingston Group, was hired by Americans for Immigration Control last month. Agribusiness, by contrast, has had a squad of lobbyists battling in the immigration fray over the past few months. The American Seed Trade Association, Florida Citrus Mutual, and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association have all registered in-house lobbyists, while the California Farm Bureau Federation signed up Cansler Venosdel & Associates to lobby on its behalf earlier this year. Hanna says Let Freedom Ring is staying out of the larger debate on immigration and only one issue is important — that is, building a giant fence along the Mexican border. While he concedes that the immigration debate is too politically polarized for lobbyists to change many minds, he’s still shocked that the Senate’s immigration bill, passed last week, calls for 360 miles of border fences. “When we started working with the Senate in January and I would have had to predict how many votes a fence amendment would get, at my most optimistic I thought it would get 51 votes,” he says. (The bill passed with 83.) Meanwhile, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a volunteer citizen militia that has outposts to keep watch on U.S. borders, says co-founder Chris Simcox has been meeting with like-minded lawmakers such as Reps. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) and Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). And in a symbolic gesture, Hanna will be in Arizona this week with a group of Minutemen, erecting a 50-yard fence on private land abutting the border. No word if Lou Dobbs will cut the ribbon. — Andy Metzger
Hold the Salt For California, the politics of water roil on . . . and on. Roman Polanski’s film “Chinatown” chronicled the early days of water power brokers in Depression-era Los Angeles. Now states such as California, Texas, and Florida are facing extremely high growth coupled with drought and competition for water between urban and agricultural areas. Enter the U.S. Desalination Coalition, which is looking to the sea for a little relief. The coalition, with more than a dozen members, including the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, and the Texas Water Conservation Association, is pursuing legislation that would authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to provide energy-assistance payments to desalination facilities to help offset operational costs. “We can wait 10 or 15 years, but what would the costs to the regions be if there was a water crisis?” says Hal Furman, the executive director of the coalition and chairman of the Furman Group, a government affairs shop specializing in public-works projects. Furman notes there are a number of government programs that support the development of water resources but none presently address desalination. He adds that the technology involved in the desalination process has improved dramatically over the past decade and uses high-pressure membranes to collect the salt and leave freshwater (“reverse osmosis”) behind. A bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), and a companion measure, sponsored by Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.), was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the House. The coalition is represented by Amy Hammer of Hammer Associates, who also represents the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues). Water, water everywhere. — Joe Crea
Half-Life Who says alums from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) office are radioactive? Brett Shogren, DeLay’s former policy director, has cooled off sufficiently to be hired by the Washington Group as a senior vice president. While with DeLay, Shogren worked on a number of pieces of high-profile legislation, including the Trade Promotion Authority, National Defense Authorization, and Medicare Prescription Drug Modernization acts. The Washington Group’s more recent clients include Shield Technologies Corp. and the Financial Services Roundtable. Shogren doesn’t have to worry about the ban preventing him from lobbying his old boss (and why would he want to?), but he is prohibited from communicating with House leadership for one year. — Joe Crea
Merci, L’Afrique Thought that the franc was dead at the hands of the euro? Guess again. The currency — the Central African CFA franc — is legal tender in 12 African countries, and the Washington-based Whitaker Group is seeing plenty of it. In the past six months the firm reported $710,645 in revenue from four African countries on its Foreign Agents Registration Act reports. That number puts it in the top tier of firms doing work for foreign government clients, at least in terms of money collected. Whitaker is a 10-person firm that only does Africa-centered work. Its clients include the government of Cote d’Ivoire, from which it collected $91,557 (or 46,832,078 Central African francs); the Ghanaian government, $400,000; the government of Uganda, $119,123; and the Lesotho National Development Corp., a government-run mining operation, which brought it $99,965. Most of Whitaker’s work focused on bilateral trade issues. — Andy Metzger
Animal Welfare Stiefel Jones & Gaston Consulting has registered with the U.S. Senate to lobby for the World Wildlife Fund. Its assignment: to protect funding for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund — the nation’s billion-dollar fund for prevention, response cleanup, and restoration of oil spills. Though $2.7 billion in funding was secured last summer, another concern for the WWF has surfaced relating to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands — namely, pollution risks posed to the Bering Sea, says lobbyist Roy Jones. Coastal and oceanic life throughout the Aleutians and in the Bering Sea is endangered from increased shipping traffic. The WWF continues to work with curious bedfellows such as the American Petroleum Institute, an ally in last year’s fight to ensure oil-liability funding. It is also working with the U.S. Coast Guard to develop legislative language for the Bering Sea problem. Why the recent camaraderie between groups that have historically had opposing agendas? One reason may have to do with William Reilly, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush during the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Reilly is now chairman of the WWF’s board of directors and also sits on the board of ConocoPhillips. When Reilly wrote letters to Congress last year asking it to replenish the oil fund, the Hill listened. “This type of cross-fertilization is lending itself to some real ability to get things done that in the past could not get done,” says Jones. — Joe Crea
More FARA Friends One lobbying contradiction that routinely shows itself: The poorer the country, the more money it will shell out in Washington. Bangladesh spent $135,200 in D.C. with the Washington Group over the past six months, and Guyana handed over $25,000 to Foley Hoag LLP. Oil-rich but infrastructure-poor Equatorial Guinea, a borderline dictatorship with decidedly kleptocratic tendencies, doled out $510,000 to Cassidy & Associates for work primarily related to energy issues. The country is Cassidy’s biggest client. Sidley Austin collected FARA money from three continents: $242,263 from ProExport, the Colombian government’s trade bureau; $148,000 from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council; and $50,055 from the government of Israel. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz can now boast that it’s one of the few firms in town to have a sultanate on its client roster. It took in $153,968 for legal work it did for the Sultanate of Oman (that is, the Omani government) on the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, inked last October. California Strategies & Advocacy LLC is the latest of many shops across the country to report sucking from the China National Offshore Oil Corp. spigot. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which spearheaded CNOOC’s D.C. strategy in its failed attempt to buy Unocal Corp. last summer, doled out $50,000 to the Sacramento-based firm for two months of work. Not all foreign work comes wrapped in geopolitical intrigue. PR consultant Susan Roth reported getting $11,350 from the Norwegian Embassy for promoting its Norwegian Christmas display at Union Station to the D.C. media for three weeks last fall. — Andy Metzger
Watching Traffic A network of spy cameras at every major intersection nationwide might sound like an Orwellian nightmare, but Northern Virginia-based TrafficLand Inc. hopes to make it happen. The company recently signed up with the Ashcroft Group, former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s shop, to lobby for federal grants and political support for the network. The Ashcroft Group declined to comment, but TrafficLand President Larry Nelson says the government should get more value out of the technology, since federal grants already pay for most of TrafficLand’s cameras. “We have to get in there and make sure the government’s aware of how useful this is to the people,” he says. “It’s all about the people.” TrafficLand’s Web site currently allows drivers in the D.C. area; Baltimore; Richmond, Va.; Baton Rouge, La.; and New York City to avoid traffic by accessing live video feeds from major intersections. Several federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security, also pay to use a more extensive version of TrafficLand’s camera network. The network helps the agencies respond to emergencies, analyze traffic patterns, and formulate evacuation plans, Nelson says. Although Homeland Security’s use of traffic cameras might seem ominous, Nelson says the agency can’t use them for surveillance because the video quality is not good enough to identify people or license plates. “For a surveillance system, you’re probably not going to use something that’s on the public Internet,” he adds. — Gabe Nelson

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