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Quiet Debut

A House Government Reform Committee panel examining steroids in sports made a toned-down debut last week, two months after pressure from sports lobbyists convinced committee staffers to scrap a plan that would have called on sports leagues and players unions to fund a media blitz against steroids.

Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) convened the first meeting of sports industry leaders behind closed doors Thursday. The discussion focused on how leagues should test athletes, and the best ways to discourage steroid abuse among youngsters, said committee spokesman Robert White.

[IMGCAP(1)]Joining the talks were representatives from the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball. Baltimore Oriole Rafael Palmeiro added some star power when he was teleconferenced in.

The meeting was the first of several roundtables the committee has planned for this year, White said, adding that it might take its show on the road by hosting meetings across the country.

A bill sponsored by Davis and ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to impose testing requirements and punishments for professional athletes recently passed the committee. It is competing with another anti-steroids measure sponsored by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.).

Elvis Has Left the Building. Elvis Oxley, formerly executive director of the Ripon Society, has joined the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association as senior director of government affairs.

Ripon, a Republican group that started in the 1960s, recently has come under scrutiny for Congressional jaunts it funded that went unreported for months by Members, as well as trips that involved Ripon’s president, lobbyist Richard Kessler.

CTFA President Pam Bailey, who joined the group in April, said Oxley will help the cosmetics association build a grass-roots program — skills that Oxley says he honed at Ripon — and increase its political action committee. Oxley said this is his first lobbying job.

Oxley, the son of Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), has known Bailey over the years and called her leadership skills “without par.” “I’m really looking forward to working with her and having her mentor me,” he added. “I’m just really excited about this. I have such a huge opportunity here.”

“We’re going to be expanding our presence and visibility in Washington,” Bailey said. “He understands our companies and the business of our companies.”

Before joining Ripon more than a year ago, Oxley worked in media relations and marketing for telecommunications company Alcatel.

Betting on Scandal. Congress certainly hasn’t seen the last of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff yet.

Over the July Fourth recess, the liberal group Campaign for America’s Future launched in-district radio spots attacking Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who has been linked with Abramoff and his Indian-gaming clients. The ads will air through this week.

A press release for the group said the anti-Ney ads are running on news/talk and adult-contemporary stations.

Picking up on the gambling theme, the ads begin with shuffling cards.

“One thing you can say about our Congressman Bob Ney, he sure knows how to play the game in Washington,” a narrator says. “When a Texas Indian tribe wanted to open a casino, they sent Ney on a luxury trip to Scotland and gave $30,000 to his campaign. Then Bob Ney agreed to back gambling legislation for them.”

“This is not about America’s future — it is about winning back the House using any and all means possible, which in this case means using outside groups to skirt our campaign finance laws and dump unregulated soft money into Congressional districts,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for Ney. “While they engage in this smear campaign, though, Congressman Ney is staying hard at work fighting for his constituents.”

Medical Attention. The medical-focused lobbying shop Strategic Health Care has launched two new coalitions, added a pair of new clients and lured a top advocate from the American Medical Association.

Peggy Tighe, the AMA’s senior lobbyist, is joining the firm as a partner on July 18, after six years at the AMA. Tighe said she plans to focus on representing medical specialty societies, among other clients.

Meanwhile, Strategic Health Care has set up two wonkish-sounding groups: the Coalition for DGME Fairness and the Section 508 Coalition.

Both are concerned with Medicare reimbursement for hospitals. Section 508 of the Medicare law, senior partner Paul Lee said, “is an arcane part of the law that has a huge impact on reimbursement to hospitals.” The 508 coalition consists of about 50 hospitals from states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey.

DGME — which stands for Direct Graduate Medical Education — enables some hospitals to get reimbursed for medical residencies at a different rate than other hospitals do.

“What we are trying to do … is bring the hospitals at the lower end of the scale up in terms of reimbursement,” said Lee, a former aide to then-Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.). That coalition has about 40 hospital members, though Lee said it is growing.

“The best way to deal with these problems is by working together,” he said.

Although the coalitions’ education efforts are getting under way, Lee said he doesn’t expect Congress to formally tackle the issues until next year. The primary focus is the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

Strategic Health Care’s other new clients include Centura Health and Alcon Laboratories.

New Identity. As identity-theft legislation gains momentum on Capitol Hill, the financial services giant MasterCard International has added a new director in its government affairs practice.

Tucker Foote, a former staff member on the House Financial Services Committee, will lobby on issues such as data security and consumer education.

At the committee, Foote worked on issues that related to financial institutions and consumer credit cards.

K Street Moves. Tom Squitieri, a 16-year correspondent for USA Today, has joined the political PR and grass-roots advocacy firm Dittus Communications as a senior media adviser. Squitieri will work with Dittus clients on op-eds, feature articles, white papers, speeches and advertising copy.

While with USA Today, he covered defense and intelligence issues, foreign affairs and national politics, filing dispatches from such locales as Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.

In other moves… Caroline Fredrickson will join the American Civil Liberties Union as the organization’s top lobbyist. She currently serves as general counsel and legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and has worked on Capitol Hill as chief of staff to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and deputy chief of staff to then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

Jay Timmons, most recently a lobbyist with Tew Cardenas, is moving to the National Association of Manufacturers as senior vice president of policy.

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