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Changing Tide? Congressional lawmakers dined on fried and fresh oysters while mixing and mingling with lobbyists in the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill — and it was all sponsored by a nonpartisan group, but one funded by member and corporate sponsors such as Altria Group Inc. and BellSouth Corp. Could this be a new strategy for reaching out to members? Yes, say some lobbyists who see the new Democratic majority in Congress as likely to move forward with significant lobby reform, including meal and gift bans. The lame-duck reception last Wednesday was put together by the Jefferson Islands Club, a group established in 1931 on an island off the southern Maryland coast designed to provide a weekend respite for weary lawmakers — a congressional Camp David, if you will. The island, a 55-acre compound with a rustic clubhouse that sleeps 20, has hosted Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The club’s annual dues are $1,000. House members last week at the Hill event included Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisc.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), and James Moran (D-Va.). For longtime duck hunter (the island has many ducks) and club President Mike Mitchell, the days of lobbyists wining and dining lawmakers at Charlie Palmer Steak are long gone. “I kind of see that as a relic of the past,” he says. — Joe Crea
Upping the Ante Nonprofit groups advocating putting financial pressure on the government of Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are hopeful that the Democrats’ taking control of Congress will lead the United States to take a more aggressive stance on Sudan. Adam Sterling, executive director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force, says his group has had discussions about Darfur legislation with the offices of several members, including Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Congressional aides say Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is expected to reintroduce legislation at the beginning of the next session aimed at protecting states’ rights to mandate the divestment of public funds from companies doing business in Sudan. Six states have passed divestment laws, but the constitutionality of the laws is in question after the National Foreign Trade Council, a D.C.-based business lobbying group, challenged the Illinois statute in court in August. Lee introduced the divestment language as a stand-alone bill in late September, after it was stripped from the Senate version of an overall Darfur sanctions bill by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the incoming chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), were among the 48 original co-sponsors of the measure. Lee’s bill also includes a provision that would bar foreign companies doing business in Sudan from receiving federal contracts. “I think Chairman Biden will have more of an appetite to take this up than Lugar,” says Sam Bell, the advocacy director at the Genocide Intervention Network. A variety of other measures aimed at exerting economic pressure on the government of Sudan are also under discussion, according to Sterling and congressional aides. Meanwhile, Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Thomas Tancredo (R-Colo.), James Moran (D-Va.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), and Lee last week sent a letter to governors in states that have not yet divested their state funds from companies doing business in Sudan urging them to enact measures that do so. — Alexia Garamfalvi
Money Matters The day before the Democrats chose Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Nov. 16 as House majority leader, Public Citizen released a report detailing the amount of money Hoyer and the other top house majority contender, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), received from lobbyists and special interest groups since 2000. Hoyer has the distinction of ranking No. 1 on the list of all House members who received financial contributions, according to the analysis, for receiving $609,836 from lobbyists, $2.4 million from out-of-state donors, and $5.6 million in political action committee money since 2000. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) came in at No. 18, receiving $684,550 from lobbyists, $2.6 million from out-of-state donors, and $2.5 million from PACs. — Osita Iroegbu
• AFTER DARK • Ready, Set . . . Shop! Everyone hates it. That 5.75 percent D.C. sales tax is everywhere. But just in time for the holidays, the city is granting a reprieve — to some extent. From Nov. 24 through Dec. 3, a tax exemption will be granted for each purchased piece of clothing, accessory item, or pair of shoes costing $100 or less. The sales-tax holiday marks the second time this year the city has lifted its extra price for shopping. In August, the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue removed the burden in an attempt to grant a break to parents of school-age children at the time they needed to buy school supplies. According to the city’s tax office, the exemption is granted to each purchased item regardless of how many are sold on the same bill to the customer. Let the holiday shopping season commence! — Joe Crea
• HEARD ON THE STREET • • “Germany is charging Donald Rumsfeld and other leaders with crimes against humanity. Germany! In a related story, Tijuana is suing the U.S. for drug use and prostitution.” — Jay Leno • “President Bush just announced that next month he will host a White House conference on malaria. Bush told reporters, �I’m looking forward to meeting the Malarians.’ “ — Conan O’Brien • “There is going to be a different focus, to be sure. But is there going to be a huge sea change? Does the business committee need to get into fetal position? I doubt it.” — Con-way Inc. VP Randy Mullet

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