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If You Build It The National Association of Home Builders is taking its money and going .�.�. home? The group announced last week that it is cutting off political-action committee contributions to congressional candidates “until further notice” because Congress and the Bush administration “have not adequately addressed the underlying economic issues that would help to stabilize the housing sector and keep the economy moving forward. .�.�. More needs to be done to jump-start housing and ensure the economy does not fall into a recession,” NAHB President Brian Catalde said in a statement. The housing sector has been hit hard by the subprime-mortgage meltdown and the onset of a possible recession, and the association had lobbied hard — and unsuccessfully — to include some favorable tax provisions for home-builders in the recent economic stimulus package. The group’s move is likely to inflict some pain on lawmakers. The NAHB’s PAC was ranked No. 3 and gave $2.9 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with 73 percent going to Republican candidates and 26 percent to Democrats. This election year it reduced giving and fell to 17th, with 55 percent going to Republicans and 45 percent to Democrats. The move — explicitly linking donations to policy decisions — left watchdog groups bemused. Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, calls Catalde’s statement a rare admission that campaign contributions are intended to influence lawmakers. “PACs and other contributors expect a return on their investment, and when their money isn’t yielding returns, they divest,” he writes in an e-mail. An NAHB spokesman did not return calls. Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit group that monitors money in politics, says the move is “a perfect example of pay to play. .�.�. The logical connection is, we give you money because you do what we want.” She’s hoping this starts a trend reducing the role of money in politics. — Carrie Levine
Follow the Money BGR Holding, formerly Barbour Griffith & Rogers, is now offering financial services — including investment banking and acquisitions — through a new branch called BGR Capital & Trade. The move follows an announcement last year that the powerhouse all-Republican lobby shop would change its name, go bipartisan, and expand into new service areas, an effort to keep more corporate business for themselves. The move to offer financial services is unusual for a lobbying firm. BGR Capital & Trade will be led by Ken Griffin, a former head of Taylor Cos., a privately held investment bank. Ed Rogers, a partner with BGR, will serve as chairman. BGR Capital & Trade will include divestitures, acquisitions, alliances, joint ventures, and strategic consulting. It shares offices with BGR. Griffin, who started last week, says he intends to hire half a dozen people — enough to staff four or five business deals a year — and to grow as business warrants. Both Griffin and Rogers say the firm already has a client, whom they decline to name. Rogers says the firm has long helped clients find partners for their business deals, among other services, and BGR Capital & Trade is a way to formalize that. “It’s exciting and all that, but I don’t want to overstate” the change, Rogers says. — Carrie Levine
Still Life With Corn Loaded with nutrition and alternative-energy provisions, last year’s farm bill attracted attention from many nonfarmers. But the strangest entity to weigh in on the bill might be the Art Dealers Association of America. According to a lobbying registration filed last week, the association hired Republican firm DC Navigators to lobby against a Senate amendment taxing “like-kind exchanges” of artwork. “This was a money raiser, and what happened is, they added it on to the tail end,” says Gary Edelson, the association’s vice president and general counsel. With the help of DC Navigators, the association successfully argued that dragging Monets into the bill was inappropriate. But how did the AADA catch an obscure amendment to a massive bill otherwise irrelevant to art dealers? “I heard about it from a guy I know,” the New York-based Edelson says, declining to name his Washington source. — Jeff Horwitz

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