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Watch Your Back With second-quarter fund-raising results in, the buzz inside the Beltway isn’t the record-breaking numbers from Democratic presidential hopeful Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Instead, Washington insiders are rife with speculation about Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid following his dismal fund-raising performance, campaign overspending, and all-out whacking of his campaign staff. “The small donor fund-raising fell through the floor mainly because of immigration being top of the news,” says Charlie Black, head of BKSH & Associates and a McCain supporter, about the reason for McCain’s lackluster fund-raising numbers. “I expect by the fall small donor stuff will pick up again. We’ll continue to do a lot of fund-raising events, large donor events.” And with a downsized campaign staff McCain will be back on track, Black promises. But, not all lobbyists who threw their hat in with McCain are as optimistic. Some believe he could be out of the race as early as Labor Day, and that has them quietly eyeing other candidates. “It’s a delicate matter — on the one hand you want to give Senator McCain the respect that he deserves, and on the other hand it’s a very competitive process, and if folks are thinking of switching their support we certainly would like them to think of us first,” says Alberto Cardenas of Tew Cardenas and Florida chairman of former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. McCain has some heavy-hitting fund-raisers — former Bush Pioneers and Rangers — that any candidate or prospective candidate (such as former “Law & Order” star and Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson) would gladly count among their faithful. They include Wayne Berman and John Green of Ogilvy Government Relations; Kirk Blalock of Fierce Isakowitz & Blalock; Peter Madigan of Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart; and Mark Holman of Blank Rome. With blood in the water, the campaigns haven’t been shy in their wooing of such money-men. “I have been called by several [campaigns] myself, and as far as I know Senator McCain’s in the race to win, and as long as he’s in the race to win, I’m going to be raising money for [him],” says Blalock, who has been spearheading McCain’s fund-raising efforts aimed at young professionals. — Anna Palmer
On Second Thought Now you see it, now you don’t. That was the message many immigrants living in the United States came away with this month after the State Department and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services pulled a plan that would have allowed tens of thousands of immigrants to receive job-based permanent visas. Last month, the State Department announced that it would accept applications for permanent visas from legal immigrants in all the skilled worker categories. But on July 2, the State Department said the 60,000 job-based visas offered were no longer available, citing “sudden backlog reduction efforts.” Since then, the American Immigration Lawyers Association has been complaining to Congress about the unprecedented reversal. “We have been lighting up the phones on the Hill,” says Crystal Williams, the association’s deputy director for programs. Thus far, one lawmaker has answered the call. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, and International Law, sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last week. The letter outlined 13 demands, including a call for the immigration agency to turn over any notes, e-mails, or other documentation pertaining to how and why the situation occurred. Lofgren also plans to hold a hearing on the matter. Williams says the association will continue pressing Congress and its legal arm is also considering suing the immigration agency for violating its own regulations. — Attila Berry
Calling Costello The Livingston Group continued to add to its list of outside consultants last week by bringing on Terence Costello. Costello, who heads up the Eagles Group, a strategic alliance of business development and lobbying firms, says he has a long-standing relationship with former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), beginning when Costello was a staffer on Capitol Hill and later working a floor below him at his consulting firm. The former defense aide to the late Rep. Floyd Spence (R-S.C.) and House Armed Services Committee staffer, says the firms don’t have any client crossover right now, but expects to pursue some opportunities — mainly in defense, energy, education, and international business in the next couple of weeks. Costello counts the University of South Carolina, Lucent Technology, and Electronic Warfare as clients. The addition comes weeks after the Livingston Group hired James Hensler, former staff director and chief counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as a consultant. — Anna Palmer

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