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Charging Up Dow Lohnes has brought aboard Rick Kessler, a longtime chief of staff to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.). Kessler will be paired with another recent hire, Stephen Sayle, a former legislative counsel to ranking committee member Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). Kessler’s hire coincides with the creation of a new entity for the D.C.-based firm, Dow Lohnes Government Strategies. Leonard Baxt, Dow Lohnes’ chairman, says that although his firm has had a lobbying presence for nearly 20 years, it’s been focused exclusively on media, telecommunications, and education. The new entity (and its hires) will expand the practice to include energy, environment, and health care. “More and more clients were asking us for our thoughts on how they could influence what was going on in Washington,” Baxt says. “It was more than just access, as the requests were to help guide them in what legislative solutions were out there.” Of course, access and relationships don’t hurt. Kenneth Salomon, who heads up the firm’s government relations practice group, has known Sayle for years and had been familiar with Kessler’s reputation on the Hill. Salomon first met Sayle when both were working on spyware legislation and Salomon recommended Sayle to Dow Lohnes client WhenU.Com Inc., an advertising software company, when Sayle was still a lobbyist at Dutko Worldwide. Both firms also had a common client, TiVo Inc. “I wanted a presence with [then] Chairman Barton’s staff,” says Salomon of the recommendation. “He had the credibility with Barton and his staff that I thought the client really needed.” Kessler says he was sold on moving to Dow Lohnes primarily because of his longtime relationship with Sayle. “We liked each other, and he paid attention to me when we were in the minority,” says Kessler, who recently worked for Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine as director of the state’s Washington office. Kessler is the third person Dow Lohnes has brought on board in the past year. They also recently hired former Rep. Bob Carr (D-Mich.). The new entity has registered with the Senate to lobby for the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, Overstock.com Inc., and AEA Technology. — Joe Crea
Good Health Health-care lobbying is always a lucrative business, but this year, with legislation actually poised to move, firms are beefing up their presence to cash in on the expected windfall of business. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz is trying to build out its presence. Most recently the firm hired Susan Christensen, a senior health policy counsel to former Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) in January. Johnson herself will start at the firm in May. Additionally, Baker, Donelson brought on President George W. Bush’s senior health policy adviser, Lance Leggitt, last September to chair its federal health policy group, rounding out the firm’s connections to the executive and legislative branches. “You are a lot better served by having folks who not only understand the process but have a deep, substantive understanding of things,” says Leggitt. Recently, the firm registered to lobby for Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit health organization, for funding for a nationwide health-tracking network, nutrition programs, and anti-obesity campaigns. Baker, Donelson has also registered to lobby for the Memphis, Tenn.-based West Clinic, for federal health policy issues. The firm also represents Senior Health Inc., the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, Forrest General Hospital, and Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. — Joe Crea
Choice Words Big business and workers’ rights advocates are sparring in the latest battle over legislation aimed at giving employees a leg up in the workplace. Rebecca Wasserman recently signed on with American Rights at Work to lobby for the Employee Free Choice Act, introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.). The bill, which passed the House last month, would require employers to recognize the formation of a union after a majority of workers signed cards that authorized union representation; employers could not demand a secret-ballot election. The bill would also establish stronger penalties for violations committed by employers that hinder workers from forming unions or negotiating first contracts. And it would provide mediation and binding arbitration for first-contract disputes. The AFL-CIO is also pushing the measure, arguing that tens of thousands of workers would join a union if employers did not interfere. [See "Let Them Sign Up," Points of View.] Not surprisingly, business advocates such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been trying to thwart the bill. Most recently, the Chamber sent a letter to lawmakers stating that although it does not oppose unions, the proposed Employee Free Choice Act would be “the most imbalanced and ill-advised labor legislation in over 30 years.” — Osita Iroegbu
• AFTER DARK • Supporting Cast Hook, a new seafood restaurant launched by a few local lobbyists, is a surprising departure from the usual eateries backed by the K Street tribe. Capital Grille it isn’t. For one, its menu focuses on sustainable seafood and locally sourced organic produce. And, horror of horrors, its location is in Georgetown, that extraneous appendage of the city far from the Capitol Hill power nexus. Oh, and the restaurant has no valet parking. Yet such features are exactly what one of the restaurant’s chief investors, William Miller, vice president and political director at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had in mind. “We want to be a neighborhood restaurant in Georgetown,” says Miller, the one-time chief of staff to former Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.). “I’d be worried if I were a Charlie Palmer [Steak], just because the lobbying rules change.” Adds Rhonda Bentz, vice president of public affairs for Visa and a Hook investor, “This restaurant is not going to live and die by the congressional schedule.” The restaurant opened last Thursday with Barton Seaver, fresh from the kitchen at Caf� Saint-Ex, as its new executive director. Other investors include Matt Keelen, a partner in the firm Valis & Keelen, and B.R. McConnon, head of Democracy Data & Communications, a grass-roots lobbying operation. Hook is not Miller’s first entrepreneurial foray. A few years back he started Fidelity & Trust, a community bank in Bethesda, Md., which now has four locations. — Joe Crea
• HEARD ON THE STREET • • “When somebody is a registered lobbyist and wants to meet with a government official, that is fair game for disclosure.” — New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), on establishing a registry for New York state lobbyists (New York Post) • “I like the level of seriousness that has been demonstrated on both sides . . . which leads me to be hopeful.” — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about the possibility of passing comprehensive immigration reform this Congress (Roll Call) • “Democrats want to regulate the public’s ability to communicate with their lawmakers, and that violates the right to free speech.” — Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, about ethics reform (The Hill)

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