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Free Throw Organizers of the annual lobbyists-on-legislators charity basketball game Hoops for Hope wanted to avoid a foul under the new lobbying laws — so they made the tickets free. This is the ninth year of the event, which features members of Congress going five-on-five against lobbyists on the court. The event is sponsored by the American League of Lobbyists Foundation, and all proceeds go to charity. This year, the event raised more than $60,000, bringing the event’s total to more than $300,000. But worthy cause or not, Paul Miller of Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies says lobbyists weren’t sure if new ethics regulations would allow them to buy the $5 tickets and give them to Hill staffers, the way they have in the past. Due to those concerns, says Miller, the League’s immediate past president, he decided to eat the printing costs of the tickets, even though the president had yet to sign the new rules. “I had a feeling the ethics thing would happen,” Miller says. Proceeds from tickets sold before the change went to charity, and door attendants were told to let everyone in for free, whether or not they had a ticket. A silent auction — which included sports paraphernalia and dinner at lobbyist mainstays like The Capital Grille — raised the rest of the money. In the main events, which were held at the Smith Center at George Washington University, a team of congressional staffers beat lobbyists, 66-55, but the lobbyists rallied to beat a team of congressional members that included Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). That 46-35 win was one of the few clear victories K Streeters got from Congress this year. Congressional staffers might think it’s worth $5 to see their bosses take a drubbing in gym shorts. But Miller’s decision to make admission free shows the impact of the new lobbying legislation could be more far-reaching than many originally thought. The revised rules have zero tolerance for gifts. Lobbyists aren’t allowed to give anything of value to any staffers, and firms have to guarantee their lobbyists haven’t done so. Violators face criminal penalties and fines — money that doesn’t go to charity. President Bush has said the lobbying and ethics overhaul didn’t cut enough pork, and Democrats, fearing a pocket veto, didn’t send him the bill until after Congress returned from summer recess. But now the bill is considered, you guessed it, a slam dunk for a Bush signature. Game over. — Carrie Levine
CarboNation As energy, transportation, and agricultural interests reluctantly make their way to the bargaining table on global warming, one newly formed group couldn’t be more pleased. The Carbon Offset Providers Coalition represents five companies seeking to boost the legal status of offsets — the swappable credits that carbon-reducing industries can sell to polluting industries that can’t afford to make improvements on their own operations. Represented by Beveridge & Diamond’s Max Williamson, the coalition includes a wide range of offset producing industries, from those that trap gases produced by agricultural manure lagoons to those that inject a lot of carbon dioxide into the ground. There’s never been mandatory offset trading in the United States, though there is a voluntary market for companies concerned with the public good (and their public image). Getting the sale of offsets blessed by law ranks as the coalition’s primary goal, though federal rules determining exactly how credits are defined wouldn’t hurt either, says coalition chairman Roger Williams, vice president of portfolio development for Blue Source LLC. The effort is being funded solely by its five members, but he says it’s looking for allies and would “entertain” alliances with sectors such as the oil and gas industry. Says Williams: “Things are happening, from our perspective, pretty quickly.” — Jeff Horwitz
Georgia Rules American lawyers for a criminal defendant in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia have hired lobbying firm Alcalde & Fay to raise awareness about what they say are human rights violations in how her case was tried. Maia Topuria and 12 other defendants were charged with attempting to overthrow the government. The trial was closed to the public, and Topuria was convicted. At least six members of Congress have sent letters to the State Department about the case since the outreach effort began, Topuria’s attorney says. Her attorney, E. Lawrence Barcella Jr. of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, says Topuria’s family and friends hired American lawyers because the Georgian criminal code is U.S.-based. Despite that, Barcella says, the case against Topuria “is the most transparently manufactured case I’ve ever seen.” Barcella and Jennefer Hirshberg of Alcalde & Fay say the lobbying effort is to raise awareness of the human rights problems. — Carrie Levine

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