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Mile-High The action at the national political conventions has always been offstage, with late-night parties that mix politicians, delegates, and big business, all while trade groups and corporations pick up the check. But the current confusion over the new ethics rules could change all that. Some lobbyists are bowing out of the latest round of party planning for the upcoming 2008 conventions. Take Kenneth Kies, the head of Clark Consulting Federal Policy Group and a major donor to President George W. Bush’s election campaigns, for example. His lobby shop hosted 12 events during the 2004 conventions, but this go-around, Kies says his shop won’t be getting involved: “We’re not planning on doing anything. I just don’t think the environment is going to be conducive to it.” Democrat Jeffrey Peck of Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart agrees. “Our attitude on this kind of thing is, tell us what the rules are.” During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Peck’s firm hosted an event in Boston for Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), who was then the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (and is now governor of New Jersey). Peck says the firm hasn’t started planning any events for the Democrats’ Denver convention yet. While Democrats appear to be waiting in the wings, at least a few GOP strategists with clear Minnesota ties (the Republican National Convention will be held in Minneapolis) are getting in the game, pending ethics approval. Erich Mische, former chief of staff to Republican Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and now a lobbyist with mCapitol Management, along with GOP fund-raiser Monica Notzon, recently set up Take�08 Events Unlimited. John Milne of mCapitol, GOP fund-raiser Dana Graham Harris, and Al Shofe, a former special assistant to then-Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson, are also on board with the company. They aren’t alone. Former Republican Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, who is now a lobbyist at Clark & Weinstock, opened Twin Cities Strategies earlier this year to help political organizations and companies navigate the Minnesota landscape. Joining Weber in the effort is his brother Joe Weber; longtime Republican National Committeeman from Minnesota Jack Meeks and his wife Annette Meeks, who served as deputy chief of staff to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); D.C.-based event planner Shelley Hymes; and Greg Johnson, who has ties to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R). The firm has already fielded several questions regarding how the rules could affect the GOP’s convention. But Weber isn’t worried. He says there will still be plenty of trade groups and corporations that will be interested in mixing with the state delegations — even if lawmakers stay away. — Anna Palmer
Smoke Buddies As a senior policy adviser to former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and later Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), David Rouzer protected the interests of cigarette makers. Now he is using his Hill contacts to help thwart legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate the tobacco industry. Four small tobacco companies recently signed on with Rouzer Co. — the Raleigh, N.C.-based firm Rouzer founded after leaving his post as associate administrator of the rural development program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year. King Maker Marketing Inc. and Japan Tobacco International USA Inc. — both based in New Jersey — and Sherman’s 1400 Broadway NYC Ltd. hope Rouzer can help defeat the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled to mark up by the end of the month. Universal Leaf Tobacco Co. of Virginia also hired Rouzer for general tobacco issues, according to Senate registrations. Rouzer says his clients would be hurt by the legislation, which gives the FDA the authority to place more restrictions on tobacco advertising, require lower nicotine content in cigarettes, and regulate the distribution of tobacco products. “FDA regulation would make it harder for the smaller guys to gain any market share at all,” says Rouzer, who worked on the 2002 farm bill and the 2004 tobacco buyout. He says his contacts include Sens. Dole, Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). — Osita Iroegbu
Heaton . . . Out! Since pleading guilty in February in connection with the Jack Abramoff scandal, Will Heaton, the former chief of staff to now-convicted ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), has been yapping to investigators about the misdeeds of his one-time colleagues. Heaton, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, attended the notorious Scotland trip in 2003 (a junket that included more golf and fine Scotch than politicking) and helped Ney smuggle unreported casino wins back into the United States. He is one of many former Abramoff allies now cooperating with the federal probe. But in a recently filed document in D.C. federal court, lawyers on both sides indicate that Heaton’s cooperation, like that of Neil Volz, his predecessor in Ney’s office, is coming to a close. The pleading, however, gives no indication of whom Heaton has dished about, other than noting that his cooperation is now “substantially complete.” He is scheduled for sentencing before Judge Ellen Huvelle on Sept. 6. — Emma Schwartz

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