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Abramoff Closes School

A month after shuttering his Glatt kosher deli next to the White House, Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff has closed down the Jewish boys’ school he founded and bankrolled.

[IMGCAP(1)]The final bell rang at the Eshkol Academy as Abramoff faces a Senate investigation into the high fees that he charged several Native American clients.

“Unfortunately, the recent attacks I have had to sustain have forced me to curtail some of my charitable and communal activities for the time being,” Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to Washington Jewish Week, which first reported the story.

Abramoff said that rebuilding his lobbying practice and taking care of his family has “contributed to my inability to continue to be the sole source of funding for Eshkol and other community endeavors. I hope to return to my community activities as soon as G-d allows.”

The 56-student school was scheduled to hold its final day of class June 17 but instead closed its doors in late May.

Abramoff left Greenberg Traurig after Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced that he was investigating several of Abramoff’s lobbying contracts. Abramoff later landed a consulting contract with Cassidy & Associates.

Banking on Change. The American Bankers Association announced that longtime lobbyist Ed Yingling will take over as president and CEO of the influential trade association beginning next year.

Yingling, who joined the banking trade group in 1985, will replace Donald Ogilvie, who will step aside in April 2005.

Yingling currently serves as the association’s top Washington lobbyist.

“Ed is well known throughout the banking industry,” said Ken Fergeson, chairman of the banker’s association.

Ogilvie has been ABA’s chief staff executive since 1985, leading a headquarters staff of approximately 350 employees. He was formerly a senior executive with Celanese Corp. and has also worked for the Defense Department and the White House.

Navigating Michigan.  The year-old Navigators lobbying and public relations firm has opened an office in Detroit, hoping to capitalize on the firm’s Michigan roots.

The office will be run by Trent Wisecup, a Michigan native who once served as a spokesman to former Sen. Spence Abraham (R-Mich.), who now serves as Energy secretary.

Several of the firm’s founding partners also have close ties to Abraham, including Mike Murphy, a political strategist; Jim Pitts, Abraham’s former chief of staff; and Cesar Conda, Abraham’s one-time legislative director.

Lobbying Passes $1 Billion Mark. Corporations, trade associations, states and other entities spent $1 billion in lobbying fees in the last six months of 2003 — the largest amount ever spent during a six-month period, according to the independent watchdog PoliticalMoneyLine.

At an average pace of $171 million per month, lobbying spending was up nearly 7 percent for the period.

For all of 2003, groups spent nearly $2 billion to lobby Washington — a 12 percent jump over the lobbying fees reported to Congress for 2002, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.

The three biggest issues that were lobbied from July 1 to Dec. 31 were health care ($151 million), finance and insurance ($135 million) and communication and technology ($129 million).

The groups that spent the most during the period were to AARP ($16.4 million), which was working to pass a major Medicare overhaul; Freddie Mac ($10 million), which has been embroiled in an accounting controversy; and the legal reform wing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($9.9 million).

K Street Moves. Amy Bacsa has left Blue Cross Blue Shield to become a lobbyist for Dykema Gossett, a law firm based in the Midwest. … The law firm Epstein, Becker & Green has hired Minh Vu from the Justice Department to work in the firm’s labor and employment practice. … Pamela Olson has rejoined the Washington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom after leaving her post as assistant Treasury secretary.

Also: Michele Ballantyne has left the office of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to become senior vice president at the Recording Industry Association of America. … Jay Hickey will leave Raytheon Company to open a new Washington office for law firm Day and Zimmermann. … Greenberg Traurig has hired Bethany Noble, a former vice president at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, to serve as director of the firm’s federal marketing practice. … Cassidy & Associates has hired Jaclyn Madden, a former legislation director to Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.), to join the firm’s education practice. … Jason Oxman has left Covad Communications to become general counsel for the Association of Local Telecommunications Services.

And: James Hooley, a senior Republican advance man, has been promoted by Siebel Systems Inc. to serve as the executive director of the high tech firm’s government-affairs shop. Hooley previously served as a principal at Banc of America Securities after working for years for former President George H.W. Bush and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.). … Paul Beckner is leaving Citizens for a Sound Economy after 13 years as president and CEO. He will join financial services concern Silk Lintott Inc. as senior vice president. … Colin Woodall has left the office of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to become the new manager of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

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