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Another Mouth to Feed

Though he has been one of the most influential Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill over the past two decades, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has never been a force in corporate fundraising because he firmly rejected campaign donations from corporate political action committees. [IMGCAP(1)]

Until now. For the first time in 20 years, Markey has decided to raise money from businesses in the 2003-04 election cycle.

And raise he has.

So far this cycle, Markey — the third ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee — has collected nearly $200,000 from corporate PACs, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.

That’s well below the $661,000 from business PACs hauled in so far by Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) — or the $545,000 raised by the committee’s ranking member, John Dingell (Mich.).

Still, Markey’s total remains impressive.

Through the most recent filing period, Markey, who is the ranking member on the panel’s telecommunications subcommittee, had collected more money from the telecommunications and high-tech companies under his jurisdiction than Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the panel.

Top corporate contributors to Markey include AT&T, News Corp., Qualcomm and Walt Disney.

Markey decided to begin accepting corporate PAC dollars early last year, well before Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) announced that he would run for president.

Still, the move has fueled talk that Markey is working to raise the millions of dollars he’ll need if he runs for Kerry’s Senate seat if Kerry moves into the White House next year.

Israel Klein, a Markey spokesman, said his boss is “just conforming to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation.”

He added, however, that Markey “has made no secret that when John Kerry wins the presidential election, he will run for John Kerry’s Senate seat.”

To that end, Markey will get a boost at a fundraiser Monday in New York City hosted by Kerry Kennedy, the estranged wife of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo and a member of the extended Kennedy clan.

“She’s very optimistic,” Markey chief of staff David Moulton said of a fundraising letter from Kennedy that specifically cited the possibility of a Senate bid. “It’s a House fundraiser — she just threw that in there,” Moulton said, adding that no special Senate fund has been established.

“Everybody’s working on a hypotheti-

cal right now,” he said, acknowledging that a lot of things still have to fall into place before a special election can be held.

As of the most recent Federal Election Commission campaign reports, Markey had almost $755,000 in the bank.

“If there’s a seat available, he’ll run,” Moulton said.

NAB Retains Fritts. Putting an end to a year of speculation, the National Association of Broadcasters has signed a deal to keep its longtime president, Eddie Fritts, at the influential trade association through April 2008.

Fritts and the NAB agreed to a two-year contract extension and an additional two-year consulting contract.

The contract, first reported by Multichannel News, ends an effort by the chairman of NAB’s board of directors, Phil Lombardo, to replace Fritts.

Riggs Banks on Lobbyists. Riggs Bank, which dubs itself the most important bank in the most important city in the world, has turned to what may be the city’s most important profession for help during a most troubling time.

Riggs has hired a well-known Washington lobbying firm for help dealing with federal and Congressional investigations into several questionable financial transactions with Saudi Arabian officials.

The Washington-based bank signed a lobbying contract with Van Scoyoc Associates in mid-May about a week after The Washington Post disclosed that the FBI was investigating whether Riggs was complying with laws against money laundering.

Joe Martyak, a spokesman for the firm, said Van Scoyoc was hired to “help respond to Congressional inquiries dealing with the Hill.”

Last month, federal bank regulators slapped Riggs with a record $25 million fine for violating anti-money laundering laws. At the same time, the Federal Reserve Board increased its oversight of the bank.

Meanwhile, the House Financial Services panel also has held a hearing on the Riggs matter.

Swimming Upstream. As many corporations work to increase their political activities in Washington, one intensely political company has decided to get out of the game.

Election-equipment manufacturer Diebold Inc. has banned its employees from making contributions, directly or indirectly, to any “political candidate, party, election issue or cause, or participate in any political activities, except voting.”

The change, first reported by PoliticalMoneyLine, comes after the chairman of Diebold had been criticized for hosting a Republican fundraising event at his home and for making remarks in support of President Bush’s re-election. The revelations stirred controversy because the company has aggressively marketed its vote-tabulating machines in the wake of the 2000 presidential-election recount.

K Street Moves. Travis Larson has taken a job as a Washington-based spokesman for Clear Channel Communications. Larson leaves the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. … Mike McKenna has left the Dutko Group to form his own polling firm, MWR Strategies. … Bob Piper, co-owner and vice president of corporate operations for Piper Electronic Co., has been named vice president of work-force development for Associated Builders and Contractors. … Lisa Meyer, an ex-aide to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), has joined Cornerstone Government Affairs.

Kara Rowland and Nicole Duran contributed to this report.