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If the Price Is Right Public Citizen last week released reports on 10 states, including Maryland, to help voters decide whether their member of Congress represents voters or big business. Interactive charts released by the national nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization can be found at www.cleanupwashington.org/sii. The charts detail how much each member of Congress has received from lobbyists and political action committees and how often those members receive privately funded travel from special interest groups.”This Congress has refused to pass meaningful reform to clean up its act despite public outrage over the constant ooze of scandal from Capitol Hill from the leadership down,” Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, said in a released statement. “The database will shed light on which lawmakers are under the influence of special interest money and will inform voters’ choices this November.” — Osita Iroegbu The Ties That Bind The usual career move for congressional staffers tends to take them off the Capitol Hill payroll and onto the list of those being paid to influence those left behind on the Hill. Even though Erich Mische, former chief of staff to Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), joined the lobbying firm mCapitol Management last week, he will continue to serve as a political confidant and strategist to Coleman, says mCapitol spokesman Wesley Martin. In an mCapitol press release, Mische is touted as being a “valuable player in Washington and Minnesota.” In his new lobbying job, Mische plans to focus on, among other things, homeland security, defense and national security, health care, and agriculture. — Osita Iroegbu A Family Affair After traveling to six states and 18 school districts and using 3,500 hours of pro bono work, lawyers from law firm Holland & Knight are hoping the firm’s collaborative efforts with Appleseed, the National Parent Teacher Association, government officials, and other law firms will stress the importance of parental involvement in the success of the No Child Left Behind Act. Efforts include a report that will focus on the lack of attention given to parental involvement while offering recommendations on how to address the problem. Arthur Coleman, a partner at Holland & Knight and co-chairman of the firm’s education policy practice, says, “Parental involvement has not garnered the attention that teacher involvement, teacher quality, curriculum, or testing has garnered.” Coleman adds, “We were seeing the same patterns across the board.” — Osita Iroegbu Ahead of the Pack If you’re looking to take your cigar-wielding client to that special night spot to seal a deal or just talk politics, there are some places you just might want to avoid. Yes, it’s true that as of January 2007, the ban on smoking at all the bars and bar areas in District restaurants will go into effect, thanks to an approval earlier this year by the D.C. Council. But some places have jumped the gun, like the formidable Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, which five months ago banned smoking of any kind in the hotel’s bar. The ban arose from complaints from customers about secondhand smoke in the lounge and a desire to create a healthy atmosphere for its employees and customers, says Chris Madoo, director of marketing at the hotel. Or might the ban might have something to do with the fact that the Mayflower is now owned by Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International Inc., which nixed smoking in its hotels earlier this year? Lynne Breaux, president of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, says the group remains concerned over the ban’s economic impact on restaurants. The ban might motivate customers to linger outside of restaurants to smoke and drink and might increase the level of noise and littering, Breaux says. Has business dropped at the Mayflower? The hotel’s not talking about it, but its neighbor is. Panache Restaurant says business has been booming since the Mayflower proactively began its smoking ban months ahead of time. “We regularly get customers coming from over there because it used to be a cigar bar, and customers know they can still smoke here,” says Mike Jelencovich, general manager of Panache, adding that the number of new guests varies from night to night, but the increase remains steady. — Osita Iroegbu Keep Out! Talk about gated communities. Instead of enacting long-debated immigration reform, Congress went MIA on the hot-button issue, adjourning to take care of more important business, like campaigning for re-election. But lawmakers did manage to authorize 700 miles of walls and fences along the 2,000-mile-long United States/Mexico border for a quick national security fix. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund isn’t happy.”The Secure Fence Act should be called the Secure Election Act. It is a travesty that Congress utterly failed in achieving comprehensive immigration reform and could only pass in its waning days a bill for a fence that will take years to complete and does nothing to address America’s immigration or labor needs,” John Trasvina, MALDEF’s interim president and general counsel, said in a written statement. MALDEF argues that the fence will keep “unauthorized immigrant families” inside the United States and make illegal crossings even deadlier. — Osita Iroegbu

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