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$50 Million for That? Lobbying’s more pricey than it used to be, but a prominent Philippine senator’s pre-Christmas assertion that his country had just signed a $50 million, six-month contract with Covington & Burling deserved more than a raised eyebrow. In the days since, however, a more realistic sum has surfaced: $500,000 for six months of Covington’s time. The deal isn’t signed yet, but it’s close, according to the Embassy of the Philippines in D.C. Last year the embassy fought with a coalition of human rights, labor, and religious groups about imposing human rights conditions on U.S. military aid to the nation. After a series of congressional hearings and letters, Philippine activists managed to convince Congress to tack human rights provisions onto a modest portion of its assistance to the Philippines. According to Katrina Abarcar, a spokeswoman for the activist organization GMA Watch, the groups plan to continue their push against the military aid this year, bringing the mother of a disappeared human rights activist to Washington on a media and lobbying tour. Some members of the Philippine government appear to be feeling the heat. In a recent statement to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sergio Apostol, the chief legal adviser to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said that the government had been forced to hire Covington in order to match the lobbying strength of “leftists” and “Protestant bishops” in Washington. “That was [Apostol's] personal view, and I don’t think he has seen the contract,” says Carlos Sorreta, deputy chief of mission for the embassy, adding that a principal focus of the contract will likely be trade matters. That would make sense, given Covington’s expertise: According to the embassy, Covington’s chief lobbyist on the account will be Stuart Eizenstat, who served in the State and Treasury departments under President Bill Clinton before taking the helm at Covington’s international affairs practice. — Jeff Horwitz
Some You Win The conventional wisdom when Democrats won control of Congress in 2006 was that the changing political winds wouldn’t favor business and industry groups. Now, in the wake of the congressional session that just ended, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers say results were mixed. Both point to victories such as the free trade agreement with Peru, which passed, and the failure of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill backed by major unions. Other issues — such as the energy bill that passed late in the session — were more mixed, with lobbyists chalking up victories on oil and gas taxes but defeat on the bill overall. And comprehensive immigration reform was a nonstarter. Aric Newhouse, NAM’s vice president of government relations, acknowledges that “there was some apprehension about what the agenda would be and how the business community was going to be treated, and it’s been a mixed bag. The door’s been open to the business community, which we’ve appreciated.” And the outlook for 2008? Presidential election years are typically slow, but the Chamber will announce its legislative priorities Tuesday. — Carrie Levine
August, Only Colder With updates to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act set to expire at the end of the month and the Senate not reconvening until Jan. 22, the issues of warrantless government wiretapping and immunity for telecom companies that cooperated with such monitoring are all but certain to provide a rushed beginning to the year’s lobbying battles. “They’ve got to pass a bill, it’s got to go through committee, and the president has to pass it, all before the Feb. 1 deadline,” says Liz Rose, legislative spokeswoman of the American Civil Liberties Union. With so little time to bend lawmakers’ ears on the Hill, the ACLU has decided to target fence-sitters at home. The group is coordinating a campaign of paid local advertising and grass-roots lobbying in key members’ backyards. Those tactics are pretty much the same ones the ACLU used on members of the House during the last congressional recess. “It’s August all over again,” Rose says. — Jeff Horwitz
Our New Lobbying Blog Legal Times is providing a new online offering devoted exclusively to the business of lobbying. The Influence blog will include daily news from our lobbying reporters Carrie Levine and Jeff Horwitz. Coverage began over the weekend with live reports by Levine, who is in New Hampshire to cover the primary and the D.C. lobbyists who have taken to the field for their parties and candidates. You can find the blog at legaltimes.typepad.com/influence. — David Brown

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