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New Face The U.S. Telecom Association has said goodbye to its general counsel, Jim Olson, marking yet another high-profile departure in recent weeks for the association. Olson is being replaced by Jonathan Banks, a former vice president-executive and regulatory affairs at BellSouth Corp. Olson, who joined USTA in March 2004, left to pursue a consulting business, says USTA spokesperson Allison Remsen. Olson will have no further ties to the association. Edward Merlis, the association’s senior Democratic lobbyist, left in February to test out his Democratic credentials as an independent consultant though he remains an outside consultant to the association. Merlis, who joined USTA in 2003, was charged with spearheading the “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. In addition to the two departures, USTA has restructured its board, downsizing the panel from 40 members to 18. — Joe Crea
Sailing Away The United States Tuna Foundation — the longtime trade association for Bumble Bee Foods, StarKist Tuna (Charlie the Tuna!), and Chicken of the Sea International — is merging with the National Fisheries Institute. The announcement comes after the foundation hired Anne Forristall Luke less than a year ago as its new president. Forristall Luke, who oversaw the foundation’s Washington and San Diego offices, says she will help out with the transition but will no longer be at the helm of the lobby. “I’m considering other options, but public affairs and government relations is at my heart,” she says. NFI, which represents the broader industry, is establishing a Tuna Council, made up of the three canned tuna manufacturers. NFI President John Connelly will head the new joint venture and is leading the transition effort scheduled to be completed this spring. Forristall Luke says the two groups, which have worked together in the past, merged to pool their resources. They will save administrative expenses and will no longer need separate offices, she says. Connelly is also taking on the lobbying role for the manufacturers, which includes getting more funds from the Food & Drug Administration along with scrutinizing various international trade agreements since tuna fisheries are located in international waters. The industry is trying to get the Senate to pass the National Uniformity for Food Act, which would mandate food safety warning notification requirements. — Joe Crea
• AFTER DARK • Got Smokes? Since D.C.’s smoking ban took effect this January, puffers have been cramming into Shelly’s Back Room, one of a handful of establishments that still allow tobacco use. The new law stipulates that businesses that derive more than 10 percent of their revenue from the sale of tobacco are exempt from the smoking ban. And Shelly’s is all about the art of cigar smoking. Owner Bob Materazzi says his business saw a 50 percent spike in January and February, though that has tapered, he says, largely due to the warm spring weather. (Shelly’s doesn’t have outdoor seating.) But Materazzi is not complaining. His restaurant is still 37 percent ahead of last year’s sales. And Shelly’s has been host to many fund-raisers this year, including a “Triple Member Cigar Night” last Tuesday for Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.). “I get 20 calls a day from people saying, �Hey is it really true that I can smoke there?’” says Materazzi. “We’re starting to get the Charlie Palmer crowd,” he adds, speaking of the swanky steakhouse just a stone’s throw from the Capitol. But Materazzi’s windfall could be short-lived. Before leaving office, then-D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams passed along his regulations for the smoking ban, which stipulated that even if tobacco sales were less than the 10 percent requirement, a D.C. business could apply for a hardship waiver provided it shows a 5 percent decline in its revenues during the first three months of 2007, when the ban went into effect. Andrew Kline, Materazzi’s attorney, says the establishment is still waiting for new Mayor Adrian Fenty to make changes to the smoking-ban regulations. Fenty is planning to increase requirements for the hardship waiver to 15 percent of revenues, according to Mafara Hobson, a Fenty spokeswoman. Earlier in the year, Shelly’s applied for a temporary 90-day exemption, which is set to expire soon. Since the regulations have not been made available, Shelly’s will file for an extension. “We’re not a white-linen restaurant, but we’re one of the few alternatives left in town,” says Materazzi. Indeed, only Shelly’s, Ozio Restaurant & Lounge, and a handful of hookah bars and tobacco shops permit indoor smoking. Curiously, so does the National Democratic Club. The Washington City Paper reported recently that the club has been flouting the new regulations since January. Christine Hilty, the general manager of the NDC, did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment. Meanwhile, the rooms at NDC’s political counterweight, the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill, have been smoke-free since January. Stan Lawson, the club’s general manager, says he never applied for an exemption because the club does not derive more than 10 percent of their income from the sale of tobacco. “From our point of view, we just know that we sold $1,200 worth of cigars last year,” he says. — Joe Crea
• HEARD ON THE STREET • • “I have long believed that most clients that hire lobbyists are wasting their money. Having said that, a client who hires a lobbyist to stop something from happening probably is investing their money more wisely than the client who hires them trying to get something to happen.” — David Grandeau, executive director, New York state Lobbying Commission (Times Herald Record) • “When I called the Ethics Commission to ask if I should report it, the woman on the phone laughed at me.” — Sara Totonchi, a lobbyist and public policy director for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, on the call she made after buying a $1.10 hot dog for a hungry Atlanta state House member (Atlanta Journal Constitution) • “We have not committed any crime in lobbying. . . . We’re going to continue using lobbyists for help in Washington. We’ll just have to be a lot more careful with whom we deal now. We thought it was OK because we were dealing with reputable companies, and they’re supposed to police themselves, and I guess they failed to do that. But it’s nothing that we conspired with Abramoff. That’s his own deal, not ours.” — Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Phillip Martin addressing criticism on the tribe’s dealings with lobbyists (The Clarion-Ledger)

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