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Bringing in the Crop Looks like lobbyists are busy harvesting a hefty sector of the Farm Bill. Last week, while the legislation dominated the agenda in the House, lobbyists were out in force on all sides of the issue, and several groups said they were prompted to register because of it. The Farm Bill encompasses a host of issues, from subsidies for commodities to nutrition policy, to school lunches, and even corporate taxation. The sweeping legislation is also the center of a growing debate over obesity, and even alternative fuel sources. The scope of the bill means different interest groups — from supermarkets to farmers and foreign-owned companies concerned about a tax provision that would affect them — are scrambling to make sure their voices are heard in Congress. It also leaves backers working to reconcile vast numbers of different interests, all with a stake in the same piece of legislation. Last week, House Republicans revolted over a provision that would increase food stamp funding through provisions opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business interests. Lesher & Russell represents the Meat & Poultry Promotion Coalition. James Mulhern of Watson/Mulhern recently registered on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council, meat processor American Foods Group, and the National Milk Producers Federation. Supermarket chain Safeway and supermarket trade groups have also registered in connection with the bill. Andrew Fisher of the Community Food Security Coalition says the group has been involved with food and nutrition policy in the past but is more active this time around. “We’ve never bothered to register before because we really hadn’t crossed that threshold” of having staff dedicated to lobbying on it, he says. “There’s been an explosion of interest in local food and healthy food.” The group is reaching out to Agricultural Committee members in the House and Senate, Fisher says, especially “junior committee members who need a win for something small,” such as the programs the group favors. Mark Maslyn, executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau, says the number of lobbyists engaged with the bill has grown slightly each time it’s come up for renewal. “About 10,000, I think, it feels like,” he says wryly, adding quickly, “I’m being a little bit flippant. There’s lots of them up there. We’ve got a few of our staff up there.” — Carrie Levine
After the Breakup Search for Innovative Federal Strategies’ Web site on Google, and the index tag will still read Copeland Lowery and Jacquez. Go to the Web site itself, and it’s blank, save for a name, address, and phone number. Call the phone number and, if you’re a reporter, you’ll hear back from Patrick Dorton, a crisis management public relations specialist. Last June, Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White split along partisan lines after news broke of a federal investigation into the lobbying shop’s connections with Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.). Given the expected Democratic gains in Congress, it might have seemed an inauspicious time for the Republican side of the firm to peel off and go out on its own. Many of its clients apparently weren’t concerned. While disclosure forms show a number of clients leaving with the Democratic side of the firm, Innovative Federal Strategies has retained a healthy registration list. Tim Wright, deputy director of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a nonprofit research group in Florida, says last year’s bad news about Copeland Lowery did give him pause about continuing to use the firm. But conversations with Hill savvy contacts both in state and in Washington left him confident that Innovative Federal Strategies could get the job done. “We saw no reason to sever our relationship with these folks,” he says, adding that his institute is next hoping to stoke congressional interest in research into restoring sensory perception after traumatic brain injuries, such as those caused by improvised explosive devices. “They’ve achieved some pretty fair results for us,” Wright says of the firm. Such strong references from colleagues prompted Tom Yunck’s Pasadena-based GeoOptics to hire the firm. “Thus far I’ve been impressed by their skill, dedication, and enthusiasm,” he wrote in an e-mail. Don’t expect, however, to hear any public crowing from Innovative Federal Strategies’ partners. Asked about the firm’s resilience, Dorton says they would still prefer not to comment. — Jeff Horwitz
Weighty Matters Have you heard? America is getting fat. To battle the bulge, the recently formed Campaign to End Obesity has started to work out on the Hill with the help of Venn Strategies. Venn principal Stephanie Silverman describes the effort as a way “to really cross boundaries to pursue opportunities to work together for change.” Fitness celebrity John Basedow couldn’t have said it any better. The campaign resulted from the National Summit on Obesity Policy, held in May, and is still working through its lobbying plans. Silverman, though, expects it will center primarily on problems with health care, not nutritional issues. “With respect to obesity, it’s all about waiting to see how sick someone can get before diagnosing them,” she says. Silverman sees this outlook as a primary reason for escalating health care costs. She believes the solution depends on preventative measures, such as getting obesity classified as a disease. For now, the campaign is working on education efforts and “getting policy-makers to think about investing a dollar today to save a hundred dollars tomorrow,” Silverman says. May’s summit was met with bipartisan support. Silverman named Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as two of the cause’s advocates. — Marisa McQuilken
Hold That Line! Call it a defensive play. A lobbyist representing the National Football League Players Association said he and other sports reps are keeping a close eye on legislation that would change regulation or taxing of Internet gambling. Fantasy sports enjoy a tax exemption under current Internet gambling law, and the sports powers that be want it to stay that way. Sports Illustrated has reported that the fantasy sports industry is worth about $1.5 billion a year. Leagues and players’ groups want to protect potentially lucrative licensing rights and other income from the popular pastime. There are several providers that host such fantasy leagues, and participants can buy different statistics “packages” at varying costs. Fantasy baseball is the most popular fantasy sport. Benjamin Zelenko of Baach Robinson & Lewis, who represents the NFL Players Association, says he’s monitoring two bills in the House related to Internet gambling. So far, they don’t seem to threaten the current exemption for fantasy sports. “It’s not gambling,” he says of the practice. “It’s more like a test of skill. It doesn’t depend on the outcome of any one game.” Kind of like lobbying. — Carrie Levine

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