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Getting Static It’s been true since middle school: A big part of being cool is not looking like you’re trying too hard. The maxim still appears to apply in the antitrust fight over the proposed XM/Sirius satellite radio merger. Both the National Association of Broadcasters — which represents terrestrial radio stations and opposes the deal — and the two satellite entertainment firms have mounted formidable lobbying efforts. Yet both are downplaying their own efforts. “[Sirius and XM] probably outspent us 10-to-1 trying to get this merger approved,” says Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of the NAB. To make its case, the association points to the $13 million in “merger-related costs” that XM and Sirius have racked up so far (the vast majority of that, according to XM and merger spokesman Nathaniel Brown, went to legal fees, planning, and other expenses). Along with a $580,000 midyear effort by XM itself, the satellite radio companies have brought on the Amani Group, Quinn Gillespie & Associates, the Monument Policy Group, and others — along with a host of outside advertising agencies. “The NAB will try to do anything to block the merger,” says Brown, pointing to the association’s overall lobbying expenditures of $4.3 million and noting that its individual members may also have flexed their muscles. (The NAB, it should be noted, lobbies on a host of other issues as well.) Also on the NAB’s side is the Ashcroft Group. Wharton jokes that former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s antitrust experience “may have had” something to do with the hire. Both sides’ modesty about their lobbying seems in accord with their policy positions that they’re not a serious threat to each other. In presentations to lawmakers, Brown says, merger advocates are stressing that satellite radio currently composes only 3.4 percent of the overall radio market, and that other choices — AM, FM, the Internet, iPods, you name it — provide plenty of competition. “Satellite Radio is a young, small industry,” Brown says, accusing the NAB of trying to stifle an alternative. To make its case against the merger, meanwhile, the NAB must argue that the combined company would be a juggernaut — but also that its members barely care enough to be lobbying Congress. “We don’t really compete directly with satellite radio,” Wharton says, noting that Sirius and XM are national networks, while NAB members have footprints of at most a few hundred miles. While XM and Sirius deny it, he says, a merger would result in higher prices and less innovation. “Monopolists will promise anything to get a monopoly approved,” he says. — Jeff Horwitz
Lesson Plan Now, we may not know everything there is to know about lobbying, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned over time, it’s that lobbyists don’t lobby — they teach. Yes, teach. They educate lawmakers and the public. They explain the merits of their positions — slowly, patiently, using very small words when necessary. Or, as they’ve put it to us time after time, they do “educational outreach,” and take advantage of an “educational opportunity” on behalf of a client. We hear this so much that here at Legal Times, we are still working to determine the exact difference between a lobbyist and, say, a math tutor. Hey, like we said, some of us are new. But recently, we saw what can only be described as a shocking quote from Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) regarding this very issue. Cuellar is backing an increase in foreign aid for battling Mexican drug cartels. When asked how he planned to convince fellow lawmakers of the merits of such a program — or, you know, lobby them to support it — Cuellar was quoted as saying that doing so is “going to be a marketing endeavor, or — let me put it this way — an educational endeavor.” Hmmm. Maybe we did learn something here: Rep. Cuellar — along with, of course, many of his brethren — may have a bright future on K Street. — Carrie Levine
Taking Flight The nation’s top aviation official will become the aerospace industry’s top lobbyist after her term expires this fall, the Aerospace Industries Association announced last week. Marion Blakey, the current administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will be the AIA’s new chief executive beginning Nov. 12. Her five-year term expires next month, and the Bush administration has not said who will be replacing her. The AIA, based in Arlington, Va., represents a host of well-known defense, aviation, and aerospace contractors, including Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin Corp., and Raytheon. Blakey held a series of transportation-related jobs before becoming head of the FAA, including posts at the National Transportation Safety Board and the Department of Transportation. She headed Blakey & Associates, a public affairs firm, from 1993 to 2001. — Carrie Levine

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