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Soft Landing

While former Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) may not have fared so well in his bid for the GOP nomination for Senate in 2004, his communications director, Shannon Gravitte, has snagged a plum position with the Republican consulting firm Public Strategies Inc.

The former Hill press secretary will serve as a director in the Austin, Texas-based firm’s media relations practice.

Gravitte will use her Florida expertise — she has also worked for Universal Studios Florida and previously advised former Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood, who is now secretary of state — while serving in the company’s Orlando office.

PSI’s biggest name, Mark McKinnon, recently returned from his stint as media director for President Bush’s campaign to become the firm’s vice chairman.

Ken Squared. Newly minted Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) has brought his deputy from the Colorado attorney general’s office with him to Washington.

Ken Lane has assumed chief of staff responsibilities in D.C. while the man who successfully managed Salazar’s campaign, Jim Carpenter, is running his Colorado operation.

Lane, who hails from Pueblo, Colo., is no stranger to Washington. He previously acted in the same capacity for the now-retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) in the Senate and in the House, although Campbell was a Democrat then. Lane was also Campbell’s campaign manager.

After Campbell switched parties in 1995, Lane became top dog for Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) and later was the special assistant for legislative affairs to the Defense secretary before running Salazar’s first attorney general campaign in 1998.

Carpenter also hails from Colorado, and he too is a Capitol Hill veteran.

Carpenter previously worked for former Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.) and served former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer (D) as a press secretary and chief of staff.

For What It’s Wirth. The former Senator, now president of the United Nations Foundation, has lured veteran staffer Debra DeShong to his U.N. advocacy organization.

DeShong, who last worked as a senior communications adviser and spokeswoman for the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), will take over the group’s 35-person press operation. Prior to that, DeShong was the Democratic National Committee’s communications director.

Previously she served as communications director to then-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.). and as press secretary to now-House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) as well as for the first campaign of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).

Howdy, Partner! Neil Kammerman has been named a partner at Fenn Communications Group, a media consulting firm.

Kammerman comes to the firm from Murphy Putnam Shorr and Partners, where he was a principal.

There he led the firm’s efforts on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

Puttin’ on the Fitz. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has selected Colorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald to be chairwoman.

She succeeds Maryland Senate President Thomas Mike Miller Jr., who presided over the group for several cycles. In 2004, Democrats retook several state legislative chambers, including both in Colorado.

“We have seen first-hand in Colorado the extreme measures Republicans push at the local level,” Fitz-Gerald said. “In Colorado we showed in 2004 that Democrats can beat Republicans if we stick to local issues that are important to voters and talk about our shared local values.”

And Two Became One. The Alliance for Better Campaigns and the Campaign Legal Center, two media and politics watchdog groups, will merge this year to form the Media Policy Program of the Campaign Legal Center.

Citing limited foundation grants for non-profits and duplicative efforts, the groups’ boards agreed to merge.

“Because we continue to believe that issues the Alliance has focused on — the role of media in campaigns and elections and its influence on democratic discourse generally — are growing in significance, we at the Alliance have been eager to find a way to ensure our important work continues,” Director Meredith McGehee wrote in the group’s newsletter.

McGehee will head up the joint effort.

Once More, With Feeling. Former Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.) returned to Capitol Hill last week to help ReDefeatBush.com and other Internet-based organizations protest what they say were irregularities and possible civil rights violations in Florida, Ohio and other states on Election Day.

Deutsch was one of the original House Members to ask Senators to join him in protesting the certification of the Electoral College results in Congress after the protracted 2000 presidential election.

“Four years ago we pointed out some really gross examples” of abuse and fraud in the voting process, Deutsch said. “Now the U.S. is about to run an election in Iraq. What if we provide fewer voting machines in Sunni neighborhoods than in Shiite ones? But you’re going to do it [to black neighborhoods] in Ohio?”

Deutsch says Congress must pass additional legislation to ensure fair and accurate elections in the future.

He lauded the Committee to ReDefeat the President, the official political action committee name of the better-known Web site, and other groups such as Democracy.com and the Progressive Democratic Group, for bringing national attention to the issue.

Four years ago Deutsch could not find a single Senator to join him in official protest, he said. Last Thursday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) took to the floor, giving Democrats two hours to air their grievances and debate election reform.

“This is another example of how the Internet has changed American politics,” Deutsch said. “No one thought this was going to happen, and [the debate] happened. This is real.”

As for whether his involvement with the partisan group could hurt his future ambitions, Deutsch, who lost his bid last year for the Democratic nomination to succeed Bob Graham (D-Fla.) in the Senate, said: “There’s no negative to doing the right thing.”

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