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The continued growth of the lobbying sector and a wave election drove corporate political action committees to fork over a record total in campaign checks in the previous cycle, according to figures compiled by CQ PoliticalMoneyLine. [IMGCAP(1)]

The PACs gave a total of $311 million over the past two years, up $45 million, or 17 percent, from the 2004 election cycle.

Not surprisingly, Republicans brought home the majority of the loot, collecting $170 million, or about 55 percent. But that result reflects a 1 percent drop from the previous cycle.

So which industry did the best job of anticipating the power switch on Capitol Hill? The retail and services sector cut contributions to the GOP by 3.3 percent; finance and insurance interests gave 2.7 percent less to Republicans, and the defense industry gave 2.3 percent less, according to the figures.

S.O.S. As lawmakers begin debate over how to fund ongoing operations in the Iraq War, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society — their version of the Red Cross — is seeking American help with their relief missions in the war-ravaged country. The organization recently tapped the lobbyists at the Carmen Group to find some funds in the war supplemental, or elsewhere. “There’s a sense of urgency because there’s a crying need right now that’s not being met,” said Michael Lempres, executive managing director of the firm.

The society operates on a shoestring budget, with about 200 full-time staffers and dozens of volunteers working to bring emergency medical care to the growing population of displaced Iraqis both inside and outside the country’s borders.

Lempres said the non-sectarian group is not currently receiving substantial assistance from the U.S. and is willing to be audited “to make sure the money is going where it’s supposed to go.”

Forging a Presence. Mittal Steel, the largest steel company in the world, this month launch a Beltway beachhead. Neil Messick left his lobbying job at the Livingston Group to captain the office, which has opened its doors at 18th and I streets Northwest. He said his agenda will include “the whole range of issues a big company faces” but is focused primarily on trade and climate change. On trade, the company faces sharp challenges from China. And since every ton of steel produces two tons of carbon dioxide, “anything Congress does [on climate change] will have a big impact on the industry,” Messick said.

Messick brings a beefy résumé to the job: He served on Capitol Hill for 15 years, including a stint as chief of staff to then-Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), and then spent 18 years lobbying for General Electric.

Pirates Ahoy. With illegal downloads sapping billions from their companies’ bottom lines, entertainment industry lobbyists are obsessively chasing a magic bullet to finally lay the problem low. Software maker SafeMedia Corp. thinks it’s found one.

The company is making the rounds on the Hill and downtown to tout Clouseau, a program it says quickly, cheaply and completely stops piracy over peer-to-peer networks. To help open doors for demonstrations, the company has tapped the Podesta Group and Holland & Knight. In addition to audiences with the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, a source close to the company said its CEO, Safwat Fahmy, is seeking to testify at upcoming Congressional hearings on the piracy issue.

Keeping Up With the Johnsons. Lawmakers last week honored former President Lyndon Johnson by giving him his first federal structure in the city. Pending approval by President Bush, the Department of Education headquarters off the National Mall will be renamed the “Lyndon Baines Johnson Federal Building.”

After years of running into a brick wall of opposition from then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the measure sailed through both chambers last week. “This effort was a tribute and an overdue recognition of the incredible contributions made toward the lives of so many and to our country by the president and Mrs. Johnson,” said Lyndon Boozer, an AT&T lobbyist and son of LBJ’s personal secretary who hatched the project.

Shacking Up. Lobbyists Mike Tongour, who runs Tongour Simpson Holsclaw, and Potomac Counsel’s Manus Cooney, former Judiciary Committee chief counsel during the chairmanship of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), are merging their firms.

“We’ve known each other for almost 20 years,” Tongour said. “And we didn’t have any client conflicts. It made a lot of sense.”

The firm will be known as Tongour Simpson Holsclaw and Cooney. The combined shop, whose clients include the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, is expected to post annual lobbying revenues of at least $2 million.

For now the shop is all Republican, but Tongour says he has affiliated consultants—such as Jeff Anders, a former aide to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Barry Strumpf, another former Democratic Senate aide—for help on the Democratic side of the aisle.

K Street Moves. Conan Grames, general counsel of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, announced last week that he is leaving the association after a year on the job. Ken Johnson, PhRMA’s senior vice president, confirmed Grames’ departure and said he has “done an awful lot for our organization. He’s looking at some options.”

• Mary Anne Walsh, formerly chief of staff to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), is joining Roetzel & Andres as director of government relations.

• Laura Lane is leaving her post as vice president of global public policy at Time Warner to join Citigroup as the bank’s senior vice president, international government affairs.

• The Partnership for America, a group that lobbies for business-friendly environmental regulations, has a new national political director. Kristin Schrader comes to the group from the office of former House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), where she served as director of external affairs.

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