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Workplace Diversity

Since 2001, when Venn Strategies put out a shingle on K Street, the all-female firm has managed to fend off male principals. But when Brian Reardon came courting, following a stint as a senior aide in the Bush White House, the lobbying firm relented. [IMGCAP(1)]

“I’m definitely the tallest one here,” said the 6-foot-5-inch Reardon, whose most recent title was special assistant to the president for economic policy. Earlier, Reardon served as staff director and chief economist at the Senate Republican Policy Committee under then-Chairman Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

Venn Strategies — whose other principals include Anne Urban and Sarah Walter as well as founders Sandra Swirski and Stephanie Silverman — focuses on tax, health care and economic policy. One of the firm’s longtime clients is the S Corporation Association, which represents small businesses.

“Brian is going to be a big asset to the S Corporation Association,” Silverman said. “As Congress contemplates tax reform and Social Security solvency, there have been some suggestions that they may revisit taxes on S corporations. We want to make sure that isn’t part of that plan.”

Reardon also will work on the firm’s recently launched public affairs and grass-roots practice called Stakeholder Strategies.

It’s about “putting a face on the economic issues that people deal with,” said Reardon, who added that he did similar work at the White House.

Help From a Friend. The effort to overhaul lobbying-reform laws may have found its first Senate backer: Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).

Feingold, who established his reformist bona fides by shepherding a long-stalled campaign finance bill through the chamber in 2001, said in a statement Wednesday that he is “looking closely” at a bill introduced last month by Democratic Reps. Marty Meehan (Mass.) and Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). He added he is “talking with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle about introducing a lobbying and ethics reform package in the Senate.”

Feingold said he is interested in going a step beyond the tightened disclosure system proposed in the House measure. That bill is now awaiting action in three committees.

Feingold’s additions could include banning lobbyists from giving gifts to Members and requiring Members and campaigns to reimburse owners of corporate jets at the charter rate when they use the planes for official or political travel. A spokesman for the Senator declined to elaborate on the statement.

Patent Pending. With Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introducing patent reform legislation Wednesday, lobbying over the matter has now kicked into full swing.

The bill, whose co-sponsors include Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), calls for an alternative to litigation by establishing a post-grant opposition procedure inside the Patent and Trademark Office. It also calls for increased parity between U.S. and international patent laws and would reduce certain damages in patent cases.

The main issues being fought over by various industry groups concern the ability of courts to grant injunctions.

One technology industry source said that over the Memorial Day recess, lobbyists from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and high-tech sectors met, with Smith’s encouragement, to try to resolve their differences, particularly over the injunctions matter.

The groups involved included the Business Software Alliance, the Information Technology Industry Council, the American Intellectual Property Law Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

PhRMA, along with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, were on opposite sides of the issue from the tech sector and ultimately have not been able to resolve their differences, the tech source said.

“Throughout these talks the biggest sticking point has been the issue of injunctions,” the source said. “PhRMA, in the negotiations, said they would prefer no bill” to limiting injunctive relief.

A spokesman for PhRMA, Ken Johnson, said in a statement: “While we understand the desires by some to make changes to the current system, we would be concerned if such efforts were to undermine well-functioning aspects of this system. As a stakeholder in the patent system, we will carefully review these proposals.”

ITI President Rhett Dawson, in a statement, called the bill a positive step.

Christopher Ott, a lobbyist with Kilpatrick Stockton, who represents the Patent Quality Coalition, said the bill’s language on injunctions doesn’t seem to be a clear victory for either side of the debate. “We would like to see very strong language with respect to injunctive relief,” he said.

Emery Simon, a counselor to the BSA, said the Smith bill address the major components the software trade group wanted. “We think the bill is going to address that whole universe of issues, as such it’s a very very good start to the legislative process,” Simon said.

Trade Battle. The Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade has brought in roughly 200 members to lobby in favor of the Central American Free Trade Agreement today.

Participants will kick off the day with a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and then will head to the Hill, where they are slated to meet with Hispanic Members and Members who represent districts with large Hispanic populations.

“We want them to know we care very much about Central America and this hemisphere,” said Anne Alonzo, senior vice president at the National Foreign Trade Council and a member of the Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade. “We are very tied to the region in terms of culture and language and economy.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) on Wednesday joined Central American immigrant-rights leaders for a press conference to denounce CAFTA. Perhaps that’s one office the pro-CAFTA lobbyists will skip.

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