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NAM Chief Leaving

Exit Expected In Middle of 2004

Jerry Jasinowski, who rose from a factory floor in Indiana to be the head of the nation’s manufacturing lobby, is planning to retire next year as president of the National Association of Manufacturers after a 12-year reign.

NAM officials, who are attending a board meeting in Washington this week, denied that an announcement is imminent. But several business lobbyists said that a lengthy search for a replacement has begun and that Jasinowski is expected to step down in the middle of next year.

The departure of Jasinowski, which is an open secret on K Street, will create a prime opening downtown at a time when job losses in the manufacturing sector are shaping up as a central election-year issue. NAM is the nation’s oldest and largest broad-based industrial trade association.

Jasinowski, a Democrat who served in the Carter administration, is paid more than $600,000 a year, making him one of the best paid executives in town.

His retirement will set off a wide-ranging — and unusual — search for a replacement. Unlike many job searches inside the Beltway these days, the 14,000 companies that make up the manufacturing association may not target a well-known Washington insider.

Since Jasinowski is the president of the trade association and not a registered lobbyist, the association also may not limit their search to Republicans, bucking the current K Street trend of hiring a Republican for top posts.

“I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference whether they hire a Republican or a Democrat,” said one GOP lobbyist. “I don’t view it as a job that is highly political.”

The political affiliation of a trade association’s president “doesn’t matter nearly as much on the Hill as [the political affiliation of] the government affairs folks,” added a second GOP lobbyist.

NAM’s executive vice president is Michael Baroody, a well-respected GOP insider who worked in the Reagan administration and at the Republican National Committee in addition to helping write the Republican platform in 1980.

As a result, many Republicans in Washington said that Jasinowski’s departure would not have a serious impact on the future of the organization.

“Baroody is a seasoned, experienced veteran,” noted one business lobbyist. “I don’t think they’ll have any loss of momentum, visibility or clout.”

Still, some GOP insiders said they will press for NAM to replace Jasinowski with a Republican in part because job losses in the manufacturing sector are likely to play a leading role in the 2004 electoral hopes of President Bush and Congressional Republicans.

Since Bush entered the White House, the U.S. economy has shed more than 2 million manufacturing jobs, including 71,000 in July alone, according to NAM’s own figures.

“There will be a lot of focus on manufacturing [in the next election], and NAM is the organization that is most closely identified with that sector,” a GOP lobbyist said.

In contrast to his chief lobbyist, Jasinowski earned his stripes as a Democrat in Washington, first with the Democratic-run Joint Economic Committee and later in the Commerce Department in the Carter administration.

Still, he has been well-respected by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, as well as by his colleagues at other major Washington trade associations.

Jasinowski’s wife, Isabel, is a top Washington lobbyist for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and sits on the board of BIPAC, an organization of business leaders that typically supports Republican candidates.

Because the business community generally sides with Republicans in Washington, many corporate lobbyists say that it is not hard for Jasinowski and his wife to earn the respect of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

NAM lost some of its luster in recent years as high-tech companies rose to stardom in the business world during the Internet bubble of the late 1990s.

NAM, which represents thousands of small and medium-sized manufacturers as well as Fortune 500 firms, was not seen as being cutting edge and thus did not garner some of the headlines that more recently formed groups did.

But it is still a high-profile organization, and Jasinowski’s replacement will oversee a staff of 170 and a budget of more than $20 million.