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International Agent

Quinn Gillespie & Associates can add “foreign agent” to its list of client services. The five-year-old lobbying firm recently signed its first-ever foreign government client: the war-torn African nation Côte D’Ivoire, which has agreed to pay Quinn Gillespie more than $1 million over the next year. [IMGCAP(1)]

Although some foreign governments have been known to skip out on their bills, Quinn Gillespie made sure to specify in the contract that Côte D’Ivoire will pay upfront. The firm’s Richard Powell says the retainer is bigger than average, but not the firm’s largest.

Jack Quinn, the one-time counsel to then-President Bill Clinton, is taking the lead on a team that also includes Marc Lampkin, a top aide on the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign; Powell, a former executive at Burson-Marsteller; and J. David Hoppe, a one-time aide to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), among others.

The lobbyists’ assignment, according to the contract filed with the Justice Department, is to increase pressure on the international community to “disarm the rebels” and lay the foundation for democratic elections this year.

Powell said Quinn Gillespie is working on polishing the country’s image through PR and lobbying. “It’s a balance of both,” he said. “Our job is to represent the government and try to build bridges with the United States, Congress and the White House.”

Quinn Gillesipe will also work on securing international aid and private investment in Côte D’Ivoire and will arrange meetings with key U.S. policy makers.

In related news, firm co-founder Ed Gillespie is also back at the shop this week after a long leave of absence to lead the Republican National Committee during the 2004 elections. Gillespie will not be working on the Côte D’Ivoire matter.

Taxing Fight. The tax lobbying firm Washington Council Ernst & Young has established a coalition to take on the legally contentious issue of state tax incentives.

The COMPETE Coalition, whose approximately 10 members are not being made public, plans to push for legislation that would ensure the legality of many state tax credits that were passed to help woo businesses to their jurisdiction.

In the previous Congress, both the House and Senate introduced measures

to do just that, and this year, the original sponsors — led by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) — are likely to re-file similar bills by early next month.

“Ben is excited about the bipartisan interest in this bill,” said Denis Fleming, Chandler’s chief of staff. “It’s our expectation that you will see some significant national organizations come out in favor of the bill in the near future.”

The issue emerged late last year after the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Ohio law that helped lure a DaimlerChrysler plant to Toledo. That particular tax incentive passed in Ohio during the tenure of then-Gov. Voinovich. Similar cases are pending in other states including Nebraska.

“People in the business community began to get worried about the potential application of a decision like this,” said Nick Giordano, a Washington Council partner working with the COMPETE Coalition, which stands for Congressional Confirmation of Permissible Tax Encouragement.

In the meantime, the Council on State Taxation, whose members include Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Ford Motor Co., assembled its own coalition of about 30 companies last fall that is working on the same side as COMPETE, said Joseph Crosby, legislative director.

COST itself plans to put out a request for proposals in the next week to bring aboard additional outside lobbying help on the legislation.

“We think there were some difficulties in the bills introduced last Congress,” Crosby said. “We want legislation that will give the states the authority to compete in our global economy, but at the same time we want to protect businesses and individuals from discriminatory taxation.

“We’re not asking Congress to create tax incentives or bless specific tax incentives,” Crosby said, “but to say to the states, ‘We think this is your responsibility to determine your own systems, not for the federal courts to say.’”

Leaving Hastert for Hollywood. After 15 years rubbing shoulders with Republican types on Capitol Hill, John Feehery is taking a glamorous new assignment.

On Valentine’s Day, the spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) begins work as the executive vice president and chief communications officer for the Motion Picture Association of America.

Feehery said he is confident the “excitement level will be about the same.”

“It’s going to be interesting to be the bridge between Washington and Hollywood,” he said, calling them “two cultures that don’t necessarily understand each other.”

The MPAA has been famously on the outs with Republicans in Washington since the group hired former Democratic Rep. Dan Glickman (Kan.) to serve as president. Under GOP pressure, Glickman last year hired Stacy Carlson away from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Washington office.

K Street Moves. Bockorny Petrizzo is beefing up its health care and technology practices with two new hires. Diane Major comes to the bipartisan firm after a stint as health care policy analyst for the Senate Republican Policy Committee. Also joining is Sharon Ringley. Prior to four years lobbying for, she worked for Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.).

Also … Jennifer Burton has made partner at the political media consulting firm Murphy Putnam Schorr & Partners. … Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton has added Lisa Rich, formerly a Congressional liaison for the U.S. Sentencing Commission. … The Institute for Medical Technology Innovation, a new foundation in Washington, tapped Martyn Howgill as executive director.

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