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Grass Fire Conservative groups such as the American Center for Law & Justice issued a fusillade of e-blasts to their members last week warning that grass-roots provisions in the Senate and House lobby-reform bills would be disastrous for religious freedom. “If passed, it would alter your pastors’ right to free speech and prevent them from speaking out on the critical issues we face as a nation,” read the call to arms from ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow. And said William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, “We are not going to silence ourselves to talk about public-policy matters that are important to Catholics, and I sure as hell am not going to submit to Congress to register as a lobbying group.” But don’t expect activists like Donohue to file lobbying-disclosure forms any time soon. Lobbyists from the Family Research Council and National Right to Life Committee scored a victory when the grass-root provisions were stripped from the expansive Senate ethics bill that passed Jan. 18. The battle now moves to the House, which will debate similar provisions in its lobby reform bill next month. Despite opposition by conservatives to the provisions, ethics experts and Capitol Hill staffers familiar with the new proposals say conservative groups are overreacting. “This is probably overstated by these groups,” says Kenneth Gross, an ethics expert at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. “We went through this exact scenario back in 1995, when the [Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995] was up.” Of concern in the Senate bill were provisions that would have required grass-roots firms to disclose their spending on lobbying, but only if they employed a lobbyist and those lobbyists had direct communication with a member of Congress or a staffer. The second part of the bill would have affected for-profit entities that receive money to do grass-roots lobbying on behalf of someone else. If these entities were paid by an organization to do mailings or advertisements and receive more than $25,000 from a client, they would have had to register as grass-roots lobby firms. Both those provisions were stripped from the Senate bill last week as part of an amendment sponsored by Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah). It passed 55 to 43. The House measure is similar to the Senate’s, but disclosure of a grass-roots client is required only if the entity spends $50,000 or more in a quarterly period, not $25,000. Religious groups maintain that the new provisions violate free-speech rights by requiring churches to be classified as lobbyists if pastors use the pulpit to address political issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Though experts agree that it’s unlikely churches will have to register as lobbyists, one favorite messaging tool of both conservatives and liberals will likely be reined in: firms that engage in a heavy amount of direct marketing and advertising, such as conservative Richard Viguerie’s American Target Advertising. Mark Fitzgibbons, president of corporate and legal affairs at the Manassas, Va.-based firm, says he is trying to get his message out about the deleterious effects the legislation would have on religious freedom. The House is slated to take up its lobby-reform bill in the House Judiciary Committee in February. — Joe Crea
Handy Manny He was a disgraced Republican Senate staffer who morphed into an advocate for a conservative judiciary. But now, in his latest transformation, Manuel Miranda, known for his work with the conservative-leaning Third Branch Conference, is pushing conservatives’ immigration talking points. Miranda’s teaming with his usual army of social conservatives in a campaign to transform the nation’s immigration laws. The coalition, Families First on Immigration, includes Gary Bauer of American Values and Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. In separate Jan. 8 letters to the White House and Congress, Miranda writes that the coalition is open to any changes to the nation’s immigration laws, provided Congress and the White House drop talks of a guest-worker program, a contentious issue for many conservative activists. “We’re not agreeing on what the solutions are; we just agree that the solutions need to be addressed,” says Miranda, who was an aide to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) before being forced out in 2004 after a scandal that involved GOP staffers obtaining Democratic strategy memos on judicial nominations. His liberal sparring partner in the judicial wars, Elliot Mincberg, senior vice president of People for the American Way, says Miranda’s latest effort amounts to another reinvention and a bowing to political realities on judicial nominations. Not so, says Miranda, who was once a Democrat. He says Third Branch Conference still has a role to play, adding that the coalition is still pushing the White House to nominate conservative judges to the federal bench. Signatories of the immigration letters, including Chuck Muth, who heads up Citizen Outreach, a libertarian-leaning public-policy organization (he’s the only non-social conservative who is a part of the new coalition) say that many of the signatories depend on Miranda’s congressional know-how. “A lot of us, on the outside, have never been inside the room when decisions are made,” says Muth. “Manny has been there.” — Joe Crea
On Contract Pennsylvania-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney is launching a procurement practice in Washington with two new hires from Greenberg Traurig — Bethany Noble and David Aimone. Noble, who is the firm’s new director of federal procurement, was chairman of Greenberg’s federal marketing division for three years in the aftermath of Jack Abramoff’s salad days. Before then, she worked at the Merritt Group (which later became the now-defunct Janus Strategies), a lobby shop founded by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and David Safavian, the former head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the White House Office of Management and Budget who was convicted last October in the Abramoff lobbying scandal. Noble says that her work, historically, has not been as an “issue lobbyist” but rather as a “business development person.” Aimone will serve as the assistant director of federal government procurement. — Joe Crea
• AFTER DARK • A Starry Night On Jan. 31, southern cooking won’t be the only thing on display at the Washington eatery B. Smith’s. Lobbyists, lawmakers, and even a few celebrities will attend a gala organized by Morris Reid, managing director of Westin Rinehart, and Ed Rogers, chairman of Barbour Griffith & Rogers, for the Creative Coalition, a social and public-policy advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. As members of the bipartisan congressional group hosting the event, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) are all slated to show up, as are actors Heather Graham and Hill Harper and CNBC talk-show host Donny Deutsch. Lobbyists and the like better be ready to pay out the $50,000 it takes to be a host and $30,000 for the dinner beforehand. But it’s all in the name of supporting the coalition’s key issues, such as arts advocacy and public education. It’s not about the fund raising, but really about drawing attention, Reid says, adding that because celebrities often serve as lobbyists on significant issues, he wanted to help give them a platform to meet lawmakers in a more relaxed atmosphere. “They do have a voice,” Reid says. “It’s a way, I think, to also get young people in general interested in our government and democracy.” — Osita Iroegbu
• HEARD ON THE STREET • • “The solution is clearly not having lobbyists file more paperwork. No one is interested in doing that, because it’s already a transparent process.” — Gregory Rohde, president of e-Copernicus • “We’re not relying on a steak and bottle of cognac to prevail on a legislative matter. But with any set of rules, limitations on the ways to get around them are only restricted by the ingenuity by those who want to finesse them. That’s not our approach. We’re kind of like that kosher hot dog company; we have to answer to a higher authority.” — Nicholas Allard, co-chairman of the public policy department at Patton Boggs • “No one should stand still when this Constitution, which I hold in my hand, is the hostage. . . . This line-item veto authority would grant tremendous and dangerous new power to the president. He would have unchecked authority to take from the Congress the power of the purse, a power that the constitutional Framers thought was absolutely vital to protecting the people’s liberties.” — Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) on a Republican amendment to allow presidential line-item vetoes

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