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Trading Up Two major financial-sector trade associations named new chief executives last week, bringing new leadership to groups likely to have heavy lobbying agendas this year. Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) will leave Congress on Feb. 7 to become the chief lobbyist for the Managed Funds Association, which represents the hedge fund industry. And JP Morgan Chase executive T. Timothy Ryan is the new chief executive officer of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), which lobbies on behalf of stock and bond traders. Baker, who has served in Congress for more than 20 years, was a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and of a subcommittee that oversees the financial services industry, including hedge funds. Ryan directed the Treasury Department’s Office of Thrift Supervision before joining JP Morgan Chase in 1993. Last year he was nominated to be the department’s undersecretary for international affairs but withdrew his nomination in April, citing personal reasons. Ryan will spend January “visiting with regional members and other major constituents,” and he will begin working from the group’s New York office in February, according to a statement from the association. Ryan, at least, has a heavy agenda in front of him. In a speech at SIFMA’s annual meeting last November, board Chairman Blythe Masters said the group’s top priority is financial regulatory reform, saying that the current system of multiple regulators — such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and others — creates burdens that could “significantly undermine the competitiveness of our business in this country.” Masters also called for working to restore investor confidence in housing and mortgage markets and weighing in on the alternative minimum tax, the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire in 2010, and Social Security and Medicare issues. — Carrie Levine
Green Eggs Feathers were ruffled. Milk was spilt. The kerfuffle over how the cafeteria vendor behind the new, greener, House of Representatives offerings described its cage-free eggs and bovine-growth-hormone-free milk shows how everything in Congress is scrutinized by interest groups — even lunch. Last month, before the revamped cafeterias opened, agricultural lobbyists started e-mailing one another about claims on the Web site of Restaurant Associates, the vendor in charge of the food. The company stressed its organic offerings, saying that bovine growth hormones have “not been properly tested for safety” and that cage-free eggs are healthier — assertions some groups dispute. Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, says several groups “were concerned with some of the other claims here.” The ag lobby was saved by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who wrote a letter objecting to the language and noting that it raises “concerns among the western Iowa farmers that I represent.” A spokesman for King says he noticed the claims in fliers and material circulated by the company and wanted to correct them. The language is gone, and Jeff Ventura, a spokesman for the House official who oversees the cafeterias, says his office is happy to work with the vendor to ensure accuracy. — Carrie Levine
PAC-men News that the Entertainment Software Association, which represents video game companies, has approved starting a political-action committee this year was only surprising in that the group didn’t have a PAC until now. The association wasn’t talking last week about the decision. But trade associations that lobby often have PACs that allow them to support candidates who favor their agendas and write checks that gain access to fund-raisers. The ESA’s PAC will be up and running in time for the group to participate in the 2008 election cycle, but they’ll have to spend quickly to catch up to other trade groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s PAC has donated $41,576 to congressional candidates so far this election cycle, with 64 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The National Association of Realtors has already contributed slightly more than $2 million, with 57 percent to Democrats, notes the center. — Carrie Levine

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