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Busy Signal The United States Telecom Association is looking a little different these days. Not only did the association downsize its board from 40 to 18 members, it’s senior Democratic lobbyist, Edward Merlis, also left in February. Merlis remains as an outside consultant. Merlis, who started with the association in 2003, was in charge of its “The Future . . . Faster” campaign, which was aimed at passing a video choice bill designed to expedite the competitive entry for cable companies into the market. Last year alone, the association spent more than $18 million lobbying Congress on a variety of issues, including the video choice bill, according to Senate disclosure reports. The measure passed the House but stalled in the Senate when former Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) refused to take it up. “With the Dems taking over, the nature of my job was very different,” says Merlis, who notes that Democrats were largely divided on the issue of video franchising. “I didn’t feel like playing defense. I was managing a host of different grass-roots activities, $20 million-plus a year. Now, it’s sort of your regular maintenance trade association-type function.” Merlis’ departure has confounded telecom lobbyists at a time when associations and firms are on a Democratic hiring frenzy to work with the new congressional majorities. Merlis says he wanted to capitalize on his Democratic ties since the lobbying campaign had ended. But Allison Remsen, director of media advocacy for the telecom association, would not confirm or deny if the campaign has indeed been shelved. While Remsen says the association has plans to replace Merlis, the association is still represented heavily on the Hill by its in-house team which includes Walter McCormick Jr., president and chief executive officer, Sarah Versaggi, director of government and political affairs, and William Deere, vice president of government affairs, Clint Highfill, director of government affairs, Andy Delia, director of government affairs, and Brandon Heiner, director of government affairs. And, the group still has a sizable number of outside counsel, including counsel from the Quinn Gillespie & Associates, Wunder & Lilley, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, Lent, Scrivner & Roth, and Mattoon & Associates. As far as the board changes go, Remsen says this is something the association does periodically, noting that the membership approved the changes to the board that now include a broader array of small and midsize companies from the telecom industry. — Joe Crea
Apollo Mission The Apollo Alliance, a project of the Campaign for America’s Future, held its national summit on Capitol Hill last week, bringing together lawmakers, lobbyists, and business leaders to advocate for both clean energy policies and continued job growth. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), along with Jerome Ringo, the alliance’s president, and Anna Berger, the secretary-treasurer of Service Employees International Union, all spoke at the summit’s close. David Van Hoogstraten, a counsel in Hunton & Williams’ international environmental practice; Douglas Palmer, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; and Liz Burdock, a vice president with Dutko Worldwide, were part of the crowd. The real star of the event was Clinton, whose entrance in the middle of Berger’s speech last Tuesday touched off a frenzy of activity from the press photography pool vying for a snapshot of the presidential candidate. Despite the evident distraction, Berger continued with her speech about Apollo members “talking and walking the Hill” while Clinton’s head bobbed, approvingly and consistently. When it came time for Clinton to deliver remarks, she told the crowd that they were “doing good, as the Gospel would say.” In addition to the Apollo’s lobbying, the Campaign for America’s Future also announced the relocation of its office to 1825 K St. N.W. in the District, thereby physically symbolizing “the new K Street” under Democratic power, according to a press release. The group’s spokesman, Tony Chaudhuri, sounded like a Democratic version of the former House Republican leader and one of the architects of the K Street Project, Tom DeLay (Texas), when he declared in the release that his group is “cleaning out the stables on Washington’s K Street power corridor, opening the back rooms to the public light” for Democrats and progressives. — Joe Crea
Coalition Forces The Carmen Group is trying to cash in on the new Democratic hegemony, adding Victor Kamber as president of its new coalition services practice. Kamber, a Democrat, says he believes that Democratic leaders on the Hill are serious when calling for a more bipartisan government. “Look, you wouldn’t need a coalition to create �Apple Day’ on the 5th of July, but there are issues of the day that can be considered controversial to the point that they might need a campaign,” Kamber says. Current Carmen Group clients include the General Contractors Association of New York, America’s Agenda: Healthcare for All, the National Energy Management Institute, and the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies. — Joe Crea
• AFTER DARK • Oh, Holly Night The Florida-based law firm Holland & Knight held a splashy party last Wednesday in the U.S. House Cannon Caucus Room honoring members of the 110th Congress. Many of the firm’s heavy hitters were in attendance, including former Rep. Gerry Sikorski (D-Minn.) and lobbyist Rich Gold, along with former Democratic Florida congressman and new hire Jim Davis. “This kind of open event honors members and salutes staff, and gets them, constituents, friends, and the press all mingling together in a casual, almost fun, setting,” says Sikorski. Indeed, the invitation noted that the firm “consulted with the House and Senate ethics committees” to ensure that it was in compliance with the new ethics rules, and many current lawmakers did not shy away from the event. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), F. Allen Boyd Jr. (D-Fla.), and John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), were all spotted in the crowd. — Joe Crea
• HEARD ON THE STREET • • “There’s sort of a gusher mounting that [lawmakers] might not be able to resist.” — Delaware state Rep. John Kowalko (D) on the momentum for passing statewide lobbying reform (The News Journal) • “The less people are involved, the more lobbyists matter. People have to engage back in the political process. The less attention people are paying to what happens, the more influence lobbyists have.” — Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (Desert Sun) • “People hire a lobbyist for the same reason people hire an accountant. When you deal with a monolithic government applying complex rules, it can be daunting, and people sometimes want expert help.” — Paul Bradshaw, Southern Strategy president

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