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Perhaps it’s only fitting that in a city consumed by pork, even pork has its own representatives in Washington.

But the National Pork Producers Council is not looking for federal handouts.

Instead, the trade association is, er, beefing up its Washington lobbying efforts to get Congress and the Bush administration to expand overseas markets for the other white meat. [IMGCAP(1)]

The U.S. pork industry has recently stepped up its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill to help tear down international trade barriers, particularly in Latin America, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

“Opening up the markets in Central America is a top priority as well as promoting free trade,” said Kara Flynn of the pork lobby.

In the last year, the National Pork Producers Council has signed up four new lobbying firms, including DCI Group; Lesher & Russell; Brown Winick Graves Gross Baskerville and

Schoenebaum; and just last week, C&M Capitolink LLC, according to

Flynn said the firms provide research, consulting and legal work for some of their lobby issues, but do not lobby Congress.

“They don’t do any lobbying for the pork industry, we do all of it. Sometimes we even bring some of our producers to the Hill to lobby,” Flynn said.

The U.S. pork industry lobbies Congress, the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies on issues ranging from environmental regulations to animal drugs to water quality.

In 2002, the National Pork Producers Council worked to expand the market for pork in China by pressing for China’s acceptance into the World Trade Organization and for normalizing U.S. relations with China.

Last year, the pork industry won a two-year delay on mandatory country-of-origin labels on meat products. This year, the industry hopes to make the label temporary.

Cingular Braces for Washington. One month ago, Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless agreed to the largest merger in the history of the U.S. wireless industry.

But that doesn’t mean that their Washington lobbying operations are merging just yet.

Lobbyists for the two wireless firms say they will run separate lobbying efforts to help secure regulatory approval for the $41 billion deal.

“We will be running it separately, though we will be coordinating it some,” said Kent Wells, a chief lobbyist for Cingular Wireless, who will lead the effort.

Paula Timmons, the top lobbyist for AT&T Wireless, will head AT&T’s team.

Together, Wells and Timmons will coordinate more than a dozen lobbyists across five major corporations and a number of outside lobbying firms.

Cingular Wireless is jointly owned by BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications and will get some lobbying assistance from its parent companies. Likewise, look for Ma Bell to add some lobbying muscle on behalf of the wireless unit it recently spun off.

It is also possible that the two wireless firms will sign up a few more outside lobbyists to help win federal backing of the deal.

Cingular, the nation’s No. 2 wireless carrier, prevailed in a bidding war for No. 3 AT&T Wireless last month after beating out rival Vodaphone.

The deal, which is expected to face only minor regulatory speed bumps, would make the combined company the nation’s largest wireless phone company.

AARP Spends Big on Health Care. The AARP made waves last year by endorsing President Bush’s Medicare reform legislation and helping to push the legislation through Congress over the objections of many in the Democratic Party.

Now, new lobbying reports show that AARP spent a whopping $16.38 million in lobbying fees in support of the bill in the last six months of 2003.

Overall, the AARP spent more than $20 million lobbying Washington last year — four times as much as the organization spent the previous year.

To put that in perspective, AARP spent three times as much on lobbying on the energy bill as the Edison Electric Institute spent trying to approve Bush’s comprehensive energy bill last year.

Of course, the AARP was not the only Washington trade association to spend big on the health care bill last year.

The American Medical Association reported $8.4 million in lobbying expenses in the last half of 2003, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $7.6 million, and the American Hospital Association spent $6.7 million on lobbyists, according to figures compiled by

Fleishman-Hillard Revs Its Engines. The marketing and communications giant Fleishman-Hillard has acquired a majority stake in an automotive public affairs group to boost its transportation practice. Stratacomm, with offices in Detroit and D.C., is the nation’s largest automotive public affairs firm.

Fleishman-Hillard is a division of the New York-based Omnicom Group.

Arena Stage Hires Lobbyist. Arena Stage, a performing arts theater in Southwest D.C., has hired Washington lobbying firm Arent Fox to seek federal funds to help with its redevelopment.

Among the lobbyists working on the account is Jon Bouker, a former chief counsel to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Correction. Vested Interests incorrectly reported last week that PodestaMattoon is working on behalf of legislation to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

In fact, the bill is being pushed by Barbour Griffith & Rogers and Bates Capitol Group.

Michael E. Grass contributed to this report.

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