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Chamber Chatter Last week, Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, highlighted his lobby’s 2007 agenda by unveiling the State of American Business Report to reporters last week at the Chamber’s headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. The report emphasizes immigration reform, calling for a guest-worker initiative. The Chamber will also launch a new organization, the Institute for Energy Security, Jobs and Competitiveness, which will focus on developing lobbying strategies for energy security and global warming. Also during the meeting, Donohue, in his trademark gruffness, described his recent trip to China with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. “Hey, it’s not like Christmas,” said Donohue. “You don’t come home with a whole lot of packages and say, �This is what we did,’ ” referring to discussions ranging from intellectual property to counterfeit issues. His thoughts on his business nemesis, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO? “I like to have a glass of wine with him once in a while, but on trade issues, I don’t think he’s serving his members well.” And those opposed to immigration reform? “People who oppose guest workers are dumb as a box of rocks. Let’s quit the baloney, or companies will have only one choice, to take their businesses somewhere else.” — Joe Crea
A Second Chance Now that some leadership shoes in Congress have been filled, the Ethiopian community has been working Capitol Hill to push lawmakers to finally pass the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (D-N.J.). The bill, which would hold human rights violators in Ethiopia accountable for atrocities committed there and increase United States support, stalled last year following heavy lobbying by former Republican House Majority Leader DLA Piper’s Dick Armey on behalf of the Ethiopian government. To the dismay of the area’s Ethiopian American Council, whose leader, Mesfin Mekonen, helped initiate the bill, lobbying efforts to keep the legislation off the House floor was successful and the bill died with the end of the 109th Congress. With the House speaker’s gavel transitioning from Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Mekonen and other supporters of the bill have met with staffers, including Pelosi’s office, as well as the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), to shore up support for the bill. “People are already saying they will support the bill and I am confident it will pass with this Congress,” says Mekonin. The bill was crafted after growing concern over the killings of nearly 200 demonstrators in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and in other towns, following the country’s 2005 general elections. — Osita Iroegbu
Holding True Despite Democrats officially taking the reins of Congress last week, the all-Republican Ashcroft Group isn’t flinching. Unlike many of its GOP brethren who have looked to bolster ties across the aisle, former Attorney General John Ashcroft is sticking to his party line. Recently, the six-member firm added two senior advisers — Tracy Henke, former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security’s office of grants and training, and Missouri political veteran Tyler Alcorn. Juleanna Glover Weiss, a principal at the firm, says the hires have long-held conservative values and will help bring clients’ conservative issues to Capitol Hill. Weiss says the firm’s corporate work — assisting companies with internal investigations, litigation, and settlement strategies — is growing significantly. So far, Ashcroft’s method seems to be working. The firm reported doing $480,000 in lobbying business for Oracle Corp. on patent reform and immigration issues in its first year-end lobbying report. — Anna Palmer
• AFTER DARK • Hooch With Your Pooch Bring your dog and enjoy champagne and desserts at the Washington Humane Society’s fifth annual “A Sugar and Champagne Affair,” an event to benefit the society’s law enforcement and humane-education programs. The celebration, the brainchild of Todd and Ellen Gray of Equinox restaurant, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 23 at the Hotel Palomar, 2121 P St. N.W. Other restaurants participating in the event, which also pays tribute to the District’s animal-control officers, include Caf� Saint-Ex, Citronelle, Restaurant Eve, Urbana Restaurant, Vidalia, and Notti Bianche. Last year’s event, which featured 200 well-dressed pooches in Ralph Lauren and Burberry raised over $22,000 for the society’s Humane Law Enforcement Division. Serious dog lovers can fork over $300 for a VIP package, which includes a ticket for one to the champagne event along with an exclusive reception with Todd Gray and chef Richard Brandenburg of Urbana, as well as dinner at Urbana. General admission ranges from $75 to $200. For more information, go to washhumane.org. — Joe Crea
• HEARD ON THE STREET • • “They can�t really be scooting around the country when Congress is in session.” — Todd Hauptli of the American Association of Airport Executives, on members of Congress traveling on lobbyists’ dimes during January (Sun Valley Journal) • “I didn’t go on tour with newspapers and TV and radio. I wrote a confidential member to my colleagues why we need new leadership. I can’t do more than that.” — John Bonacic on the re-election of Joe Bruno as majority leader of the New York state senate, quoted in The New York Observer • “Stop hiring lobbyists. We don’t have the money for them anyway. The best lobbyists we have are our elected leaders. It’s extremely important that they show their faces in Washington, D.C., to share our problems with the U.S. congressmen. I can always arrange meetings for them.” — Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Resident Representative Pete Tenorio, to government leaders of the islands (Saipan Tribune)

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