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Six weeks after the Central American Free Trade Agreement passed by the narrowest of margins, tensions are still running high on and off Capitol Hill.

The latest sign: Labor lobbyists last week showed they are serious about punishing the 15 Democrats whose support helped put the pact over the top. [IMGCAP(1)]

In a meeting at the National Republican Congressional Committee, representatives of several unions met with investment banker David McSweeney, one of the Republicans vying to challenge CAFTA supporter Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.).

“The biggest prerequisite we had when we met him was to see if he had horns and a tail, and he didn’t,” said Sean McGarvey, political director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

Attendance at the meeting straddled the recent AFL-CIO rift by including Chuck Harple of the breakaway International Brotherhood of Teamsters; and Kevin O’Connor of the federation’s International Association of Fire Fighters.

“Clearly the unions have options,” said a source familiar with the meeting, “and we’re putting the CAFTA 15 on notice.”

However, in the meeting, McSweeney told union lobbyists that he would have voted for CAFTA as well. McGarvey said the group was not surprised by the comment.

“The reaction was, ‘OK, let’s talk about where we agree,’” McGarvey said. “We had an honest conversation. He’s not with us on every issue, but we appreciate his honesty.”

Of Bean’s vote for CAFTA, he added: “My people back in the district, quite honestly, they’re embarrassed. How you recover from that, I don’t know. She might win — more power to her — but she’ll do it without us.”

Bean spokesman Brian Herman said the Congresswoman voted “what she believed was best for her constituents.”

“Any organization that is offended by that is free to support whoever it wants,” he said. “She campaigned for nearly four years as independent minded and anyone who expected her to be a rubber stamp wasn’t paying attention. She defeated the most anti-labor Member of Congress. If they think it’s a good idea to support candidates who are against them on everything, including trade, than they’re the ones who have to justify that to their members.”

The meeting came a week after major business groups threw the CAFTA 15 a fundraiser to thank them for their votes.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declined to comment.

Lobbying for Congress. A fixture in the Washington, D.C., lobbying world, Albert Fox, has apparently decided he would rather be in Congress than lobby it. Fox, the president of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy, has announced his candidacy as a Democrat for Florida’s 11th Congressional district. It’s a seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.), who is running for governor.

Fox did not return calls left with his D.C. or Tampa offices by press time, but in a recent interview with the St. Petersburg Times, he said he flirted with the idea of running as a Republican but decided “there was no way I could tell the national Republican party what they wanted to hear on Cuba.”

According to the Alliance’s lobbying report for the first half of 2005, the group spent less than $10,000 on lobbying issues. But those issues included pushing for legislation that would allow travel between the United States and Cuba and a bill to provide the people of Cuba with access to food and medicine from the United States.

Foreign Agent Files. In its semi-annual filing with the Justice Department, the Glover Park Group reported a hefty chunk of change from its foreign government clients, which include Turkey, the Marshall Islands and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.

The Democratic firm, which does public relations, political consulting and lobbying, reported $30,000 in payments for work it did on behalf of the Marshall Islands through the all-GOP firm Alexander Strategy Group. Glover received an even $100,000 from the Taipei client and $135,000 for work on Turkey.

Meanwhile, Baker & Hostetler has signed up the government of the Republic of Croatia for legal and government relations work for a fee of $36,000 a month, plus expenses, according to forms filed with Justice. The issues include “Croatia’s aspirations to join the European Union and its bi-lateral relationship with the United States.”

Treasured Client. The quickly budding lobbying practice of PR firm Ruder Finn has signed up a Copenhagen-based group that wants to bring a Middle Eastern exhibit to the United States.

The United Exhibits Group has tapped GOP insider Ronald Christie, a former White House aide to President Bush, and Democrat Andrew Rosenberg, who made a run for Virginia’s 8th Congressional district.

The exhibit, called Nimrud Treasures, features gold and other artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq.

“They’ve worked in conjunction with the Iraqi Ministry of Culture,” said Christie, who serves as the firm’s vice president of global government affairs.

Christie noted that Bush has indicated a willingness to educate Americans about the Middle East, and added that this exhibit could fit into that goal.

“What I’ve been doing is working with friends on the Hill and in the administration to educate them about the exhibition, what the artifacts are,” Christie said.

K Street Moves. Intelsat General Corp. has tapped Richard DalBello as its vice president of government relations. DalBello, a former president of the Satellite Industry Association, will lobby issues on the federal, state and local government. DalBello began his career in Washington in the Office of Technology Assessment for the U.S. Congress.

Also: B. Parker Miller III has joined the Curtiss-Wright Corp. as senior vice president for government relations. Miller, a former officer in the Marine Corps, will coordinate government programs for Curtiss-Wright, a company involved in metal treatment and aviation work that has a range of defense interests. Miller spent 12 years with defense contractor Northrop Grumman, where he handled Pentagon and Capitol Hill issues.

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