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Iraq Taps Into Washington

A few months after being installed as Iraq’s ambassador to the United States, Rend al-Rahim has hired a Washington lobbyist to navigate the diplomatic channels in the Bush administration and Congress.

[IMGCAP(1)]Al-Rahim has brought on Juleanna Glover-Weiss to “assist in formulating and executing a Congressional and executive branch communications and legislative strategy,” according to a contract filed with the Justice Department.

Weiss was previously a spokeswoman for Vice President Cheney, one of the architects of the Iraq war. She has also worked for Attorney General John Ashcroft and for Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard, a leading supporter of the war.

Weiss, now a lobbyist with Clark & Weinstock, signed up to work for the newly named ambassador late last month. Weiss will work for free and pick up all expenses involved.

According to the contract, Weiss will help al-Rahim set up meetings with Members of Congress, Congressional staff, the Bush administration and key members of the media, as well as develop “strategy and talking points” for meetings and speeches.

On Capitol Hill, Weiss will help the ambassador communicate Iraq’s positions on “appropriations, foreign policy, trade, international development and military affairs.”

Two weeks before inking her deal with al-Rahim, Weiss and her husband hosted the ambassador at a cocktail reception at their million-dollar home in the tony Kalorama section of Northwest Washington. (Journalist Howard Mortman once told Washingtonian magazine that Weiss was “the Pamela Harriman for a generation of people who have never heard of Pamela Harriman.”)

At the party, al-Rahim told the crowd that the governing forces in Iraq should be “looking beyond the immediate problems and challenges and focusing on the future.”

Among those in attendance were Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), journalist Christopher Hitchens and lobbyist Charlie Black.

Churchill Downs Places Bet. While thousands of Americans placed bets last weekend on the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, few were aware that

Churchill Downs has placed a wager of a different kind in Washington.

The owners of the famed racetrack have whipped up a lobbying effort on Capitol Hill to deal with issues ranging from the slaughter of thoroughbreds to the arcane way in which foreigners are taxed on bets at the track.

To aide with that effort, Churchill Downs established its own government relations office, complete with a small political action committee.

In its six years, the Churchill Downs Inc. PAC has handed out nearly $100,000 to Members of Congress, mainly to the home-state Kentucky delegation.

“Basically, the PAC is there to support the Kentucky delegation, who by and large are some of the best supporters of the horseracing business in the country,” said Alex Waldrop, president of Churchill Downs.

So far this year, the PAC has handed out a total of $7,000 to President Bush’s re-election effort, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Nick Clooney (D), the House candidate in Kentucky and father of Hollywood actor George Clooney.

Churchill Downs does not have an outside lobbying firm in Washington, but it works on some issues through the American Horse Council.

Rum Punched? Following a long K Street tradition, opponents of efforts by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) to aid Bacardi USA in a long-running trademark dispute have hired — surprise! — a group of lobbyists close to DeLay to help kill the measure.

French liquor company Pernod-Ricard has signed up former Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Va.) and two of Washington’s all-Republican lobbying firms — the Federalist Group and Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock — to stop DeLay from ensuring that the famous “Havana Club” rum label stays safely in the hands of Bacardi.

DeLay had pushed for legislation for years that would help Bacardi in its long-running battle with Pernod-Ricard over who owns the rights to the legendary “Havana Club” rum label.

Last week, legislation was introduced in the House and Senate that would give Bacardi what it wants.

Bacardi, for its part, has hired former Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), the lawmaker who authored the original 1999 trademark law at issue.

DeLay’s provision would have altered Section 211 of U.S. trademark law to ensure that U.S. and foreign companies are prevented from registering or defending in court trademarks associated with property expropriated by foreign governments.

This change would have benefited Bacardi at the expense of Pernod-Ricard and the Cuban government, which set up a joint venture in 1993 to market Havana Club.

Fleischer Drafts Help. President Bush’s former spokesman Ari Fleischer hasn’t been in the private sector long, but he is already looking for help.

Fleischer has hired sports marketing and management agency IMG to find public relations clients in the sports world, according to a report in Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal.

Sports “is just a natural love of mine,” Fleischer told the magazine. “It’s an interest I’ve always had. Now that I have left the White House, I’ve gone back to reading the newspapers the way I used to, which is the sports section first.”

Lewis Leaves Public Integrity. A decade and a half after founding the Center for Public Integrity, Charles Lewis announced he will step down from the watchdog group at the beginning of next year.

Lewis will continue to serve on the group’s board of directors but will no longer fill its executive director slot.

Lewis founded the Center for Public Integrity after a career in broadcast journalism, where he was a producer to “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace. It publishes detailed studies on money and influence in politics.

eBay Holds Lobby Day. Online auctioneer eBay is sponsoring its largest-ever lobbying effort today by flying 51 eBay users to Capitol Hill to tell lawmakers about the Web site’s virtues.

Those participating in the lobbying effort — one from each state and the District of Columbia — plan to tell lawmakers that thousands of small businesses save money by buying things from eBay.

The eBay users involved in the effort also will attend talks by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.).

Doucet Makes Move. Shane Doucet has left Capitol Hill Consulting Group to join the Washington office of Adams & Reese, where he will lobby alongside former Rep. Jimmy Hayes (D-La.).

Adams & Reese is a Gulf Coast-based law firm that does work for a broad range of interests in the region, from General Electric to Louisiana State University.

Doucet, a former aide to Rep. Chris John (D-La.), worked at the Capitol Hill Consulting Group for another former Member of Congress: one-time Rep. Bill Brewster (D-Okla.).

Doucet’s father, Ned Doucet, is one of the Democratic candidates seeking to replace John in the House as John runs for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. John Breaux (D-La.).

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