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Blocking the Block

When top-drawer New York auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s are mentioned in the same breath, it’s usually because the rivals are competing for high-end estates or high-end buyers (or, a few years back, in a court case over collusion).

Now, threatened by the prospect of losing their lucrative work with Chinese artifacts, the two shops are joining forces in Washington. [IMGCAP(1)]

To beat back an attempt by China to end virtually all American imports of antiquities from that country, the auction houses have hired the American Continental Group, an all-GOP lobby firm.

David Metzner, the firm’s managing director, said his team will work the issue both at the State Department and on Capitol Hill. “This is really about the ability to continue to build collections,” he said.

China is seeking the ban to end what it calls rampant looting of its archaeological sites and museums, driven by a growing private market for its antiquities. The auction houses — joined by archaeologists, private collectors and museum directors — argue that the ban is too broad and that it doesn’t abide by the terms of the international agreement under which the Chinese are making the request.

“This would make it impossible for museums to buy things without running afoul of the law,” said Anita Difanis, director of government affairs for the Association of Art Museum Directors. “We are trying to talk to folks on the Hill and get them interested in this process, but it’s a complex issue, and not one the legislative offices are following.”

Unfortunate Timing. Candidates and political consultants were a little surprised this week when they received a brochure for an upcoming seminar on campaigns billed as “Political Gumbo.”

The event, sponsored by Campaigns and Elections magazine, is set for the weekend of Jan. 20 — in storm-ravaged New Orleans.

“The brochure was printed the weekend of the hurricane,” explained Tracy Allman Dietz, director of political programs and operations for the magazine. It promises “discounts at the New Orleans Marriott for seminar registrants.”

Dietz said she is hopeful that recovery efforts will progress quickly enough that the event won’t have to be rescheduled.

“We want to wait before we make a decision, because we feel like there’s a good possibility we could bring some tourists back to the city,” she said.

If the city is not in shape by late January, however, Dietz said she would try working with the hotel to schedule the seminar for a later weekend.

Blame It on Katrina. It isn’t exactly the Dave Matthews Band at Red Rocks, but even K Street has gotten into the benefit-concert action. A group of consultants and corporations is holding a fundraiser tonight at Cantina Marina featuring the band Blame It on Jane, whose lead singer is Jane Adams, a lobbyist with Johnson & Johnson.

A minimum $25 donation buys access to an open bar, food and live tunes at the waterfront watering hole. All donations go directly to the American Red Cross.

Political consultant Mark Dion of the firm Alfano Leonardo said “some of us around town had contributed to relief efforts, but were looking to do a little more. We want to show that Washington cares.”

Dion tapped Blame It on Jane and helped organize a list of sponsors that includes Johnson & Johnson, the lobby shop Larson Dodd Stewart & Myrick, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Group.

“Working through everyone’s busy schedules, we were able to pull it together in about a week,” said Dion, who added that he’s not sure how much the concert will net.

Lobbyist-singer Adams said Cantina Marina is donating food and drinks and the band is donating its time. “We all worked together to spread the word to sponsors,” Adams said. The band “wanted to contribute, and when they called we were thrilled to be asked.”

K Street Moves. As sugar growers gear up for a new farm bill, the industry has a new lobbyist, fresh from the House Agriculture Committee. After five years on the committee, Claire Folbre takes the job as legislative director for the Florida Sugar Cane League, Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers and Hawaii Sugar Farmers. Most recently, she advised Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who chairs the committee, on sugar policy. Sugar growers recently earned the ire of House Republican leadership for their opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Other Moves: Ric Molen, most recently the legislative director for Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), has joined the government-relations firm Lent Scrivner & Roth. Molen served as Burns’ LD for seven years and before that worked as Burns’ staff associate to the Appropriations Committee.

Also: Dutko Worldwide has continued its growth spurt by adding Marino Marcich, a former State Department official, as a vice president in its Dutko Global Advisors unit. Marcich joined the State Department’s policy planning staff in June 2001, in a job where he advised then-Secretary Colin Powell and senior government officials on both international economics and Latin American affairs.

Marcich also has served as assistant vice president for international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.