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HEATING UP The effects of global warming have reached K Street, and the practice area is likely to be red-hot in 2008. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has picked up the pace on hearings on climate change, and the committee is planning to file a bill next year. That’s the kind of legislative free-for-all where everyone is bound to have a proposal — and a lobbyist. Any attempt to control greenhouse gases or craft new emissions regulations would have an impact far beyond the energy companies that have so far spent the most lobbying money on the global warming issue. “We expect a lot of action” in Congress on energy and climate change issues, says Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group, who notes that his firm expects interest in those issues from both current and new clients. It could take Congress two or three years to pass major legislation, Podesta says, especially with elections looming. Firms are already bolstering their climate change teams. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld announced a new global climate change practice in November; one of the leaders is prominent lobbyist Ken Mehlman, former head of the Republican National Committee. The firm already represents Eastman Chemical Co., Florida Power & Light Co., and General Electric. A number of other firms, including Holland & Knight and the Livingston Group, have said they plan to target climate change clients as well. Business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Alliance of Manufacturers, are preparing to focus their firepower as well. “I think it’s just going to continue to ramp up,” says Rich Gold, head of the public policy practice at Holland & Knight. “Everyone is going to really kick in and focus on it, and we’ve definitely got prospective clients coming to us every week in this area.” — Carrie Levine
TOY STORY This year was full of horror stories about lead in toys, defective magnets, and deadly amusement park rides. K Street thinks the spotlight will stay on consumer safety in 2008. A bill to overhaul the Consumer Product Safety Commission didn’t make it to the floor of the House or the Senate this year, and the head of the commission has objected to plans that would expand the agency’s responsibilities. Still, congressional Democrats upset over high-profile product recalls (and perhaps seeing a chance to put pressure on China) are unlikely to back off the issue. The recall of millions of toys manufactured in China raised new questions about the country’s safety standards and exacerbated long-standing tensions over trade. Toy companies damaged by the recalls are hiring lobbyists (some, like Toys R Us, for the first time) to work on the issue. David Johnson, a partner at Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, which registered to represent Mattel in August, says the firm has heard from other companies and trade associations that have an interest in consumer products and are concerned about an unprecedented overhaul of consumer safety regulations. Most agree that the agency is understaffed and underfunded, he says, but they are split over how to best achieve reforms and whether civil and criminal penalties for violators would help or hurt. “You get to talking about pretty big notions about how government works and how government ought to work, and somewhere in there you have to find some balance that allows commerce to continue and provides the level of protection and transparency and the like that everybody agrees is necessary and desirable,” Johnson says. — Carrie Levine
TAXED TO THE MAX? No one would use the phrase “mother of all” to describe a tax bill unless he wanted to rile people up. And that’s exactly what Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, accomplished this year when he floated a broad overhaul of corporate taxation, though the issue will probably have to wait out election season. “This debate isn’t going to occur until we know who the next president is,” says the Federal Policy Group’s Ken Kies, “and I think Chairman Rangel would probably tell you the same thing.” But that doesn’t mean the lobbying is postponed until after the Inaugural Ball. Rangel’s bill has the potential to divide the business community, pitting companies that would benefit from a 10-year, $360 billion cut to the corporate tax rate against those that would pay for it through various hikes. “To the extent that the business community can stay united and share information, that’s going to create a more pro-business environment,” says Dan Danner, head of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. That’s the rationale behind the resurrection of the Tax Relief Coalition, the ad hoc group that in 2001 and 2003 promoted President George W. Bush’s tax cuts. Despite its members’ deep pockets, the TRC doesn’t intend to raise much money for this latest fight. Instead, its leadership — some of whom are veterans of the bitter 1986 tax fight — will distribute information to members and help coordinate the business community’s response. Even with tax lobbyists squarely focused on end-of-the-year R&D credit expansions and a patch for the alternative minimum tax, a TRC steering event in mid-December drew a crowd and featured appearances by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “It was standing room only,” says Jade West, senior vice president for government relations of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. “When we hit the switch, the grass roots will be there.” — Jeff Horwitz
PATENT PROSPECTS There was a point just after the summer recess when it looked like patent reform legislation just might make it. In one of the year’s most confused legislative battlefields of the year, an alliance of big tech firms, generic pharmaceutical companies, and an assortment of financial institutions was close to taking a bill to the Senate floor over the vehement opposition of the pharmaceutical industry, biotech, and some major manufacturers. “There was a point when they were breaking out the cloture champagne,” Harold Wegner, an IP attorney for Foley & Lardner, says of the bill’s proponents. But while reformers’ efforts may have put pharmaceutical and biotech lobbyists on their heels, the industries successfully kept the bill from advancing further this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that the Senate will get back to the matter promptly in the coming months, keeping almost every major shop downtown busy — in some cases, with clients on both sides. “The practice I’ve observed of the pharmaceutical industry is that they hire everybody,” says Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock’s Mark Isakowitz, who heads the not-exactly-impoverished, tech-industry-backed Coalition for Patent Fairness. “They just believe in putting chips on every number.” On the other side is the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, which is motivated by sundry matters such as patent process challenges, damage apportionment, inequitable conduct, and the venue of lawsuits. While many members wouldn’t mind seeing the patent system change, they believe the tech industry’s approach to reform, which would make it harder to file a successful patent suit, would also weaken intellectual property protections. “Damages [apportionment] probably unites more of the people who have concerns than any other issues,” says Patton Boggs’ Joel Jankowsky, who lobbies for the group. “But it’s not monolithic.” How heavily the possibilities of a Democratic administration and Senate gains weigh on the drug companies is anyone’s guess. What is already clear, however, is that the clout of patent fight participants — and their lobbying money — has transformed an issue not accustomed to such sophisticated maneuvering. “In the past, you could have a hold because there was insufficient momentum to override a hold,” Wegner says. “The idea that a patent bill could get cloture is something new. It is still in hindsight remarkable to me that they�ve gotten that far.” — Jeff Horwitz

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