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Mum’s the Word

Embattled Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) now seems to be embracing an end-of-September exit from the Senate. But what of his future at the National Rifle Association?

As a member of the gun lobby’s board, Craig has played a key role in Congressional gun debates, helping pass legislation to protect firearms manufacturers from lawsuits and working to improve background checks.

But the NRA was silent on whether Craig would remain on the board, declining to respond to several Roll Call requests for comment on the matter last week. [IMGCAP(1)]

For now, it seems, Craig is having better luck with his friends in the private property movement. The American Land Rights Association, which worked with the Senator on Congressional land battles, last week called for a boycott of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where the Senator was busted in a sex sting earlier this summer.

Game On. Under the leadership of a new president, the video game lobby is looking to polish its image and increase its political visibility. This, apparently, won’t come cheap (controversies over games like “Grand Theft Auto” haven’t been the best PR).

The contract with the Entertainment Software Association, as the lobbying group is known, is estimated at more than $1 million a year, according to sources familiar with the effort. So it’s no surprise that the biggest public affairs outfits want in on the action.

A recent e-mail from the ESA’s director of media relations, Dan Hewitt, to the association’s members involved in the “public relations working group” indicated that the ESA was leaning toward selecting Qorvis Communications.

But there was a glitch. “Overwhelmingly, the feedback was that Qorvis’s conflict of interest did present an issue that could not be overlooked. And, upon further conversations, it’s clear that Qorvis will not resign the other [conflicting] account,” Hewitt wrote in the e-mail.

Hewitt declined to discuss the potential conflict, but sources familiar with the situation said the ESA members didn’t want Qorvis working for them if the firm also was going to work for existing client Consumer Electronics Association.

Says Qorvis partner Don Goldberg: “While we do not comment on new client proposals, as a general matter Qorvis would never fire an existing client in order to win a new client. That is not the way we do business.”

Of course, since this is about PR, the ESA folks didn’t want anyone to know that they had first considered giving the account to Qorvis.

In the e-mail, Hewitt writes, “Several of you suggested that we not disclose to Qorvis why they were not chosen. This is to avoid any company or firm promoting that they rejected our work.”

Hewitt added in the e-mail that because of the Qorvis conflict, the ESA was planning to award Powell Tate the contract. A spokesman for Powell Tate referred comment to the ESA.

Said Hewitt, “The process isn’t finished yet and we’ll make an announcement at the appropriate time.”

As for the campaign itself, Hewitt wrote in his e-mail: “This is going to be a great campaign, benefiting the entire industry.”

The Gift That Keeps on Giving. Lobbyists are keeping pace with the accelerated presidential contest by plugging in early as top fundraisers for their favored candidates. Fourteen months before Election Day, the campaigns already have signed up two-thirds as many lobbyist-bundlers as they did for the entire campaign in 2004, according to a new study from Public Citizen.

The study found 92 federal lobbyists have signed up to raise money for presidential campaigns so far, and that number is bound to grow, because 70 percent of lobbyists who raised cash in the 2004 race remain uncommitted.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have signed up twice as many lobbyist-fundraisers as any rivals in their respective parties, the study also found.

K Street Moves. Dutko Worldwide has hired a Windy City lobbyist. Peter Halpin, a one-time lobbyist with Cassidy & Associates and most recently director of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s Washington, D.C., office, has joined the firm as a senior vice president.

Dutko’s Mark Irion said in a statement that the firm will tap Halpin’s experience with Congress, state legislatures and the executive branch — Halpin also served in President Bill Clinton’s administration. “He is very strong in the politically important mid-Western states,” added Dutko’s Craig Pattee, who chairs the firm’s state and local practice.

• The Information Technology Industry Council has added another Democratic lobbyist to its roster, tipping the group’s lobbying balance in favor of Democrats now. Jonathan Hoganson, most recently the legislative director for Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), starts his new job today as director of government relations. That brings the ITI lobbying team to three Democrats and two Republicans. Hoganson also recently served as policy director for the House Democratic Caucus, which Emanuel chairs.

• Matt Rhodes is joining the American Hotel & Lodging Association as director of legislative communications. He comes to the group after 10 years on Capitol Hill, most recently as deputy communications director for the House Budget Committee.

• Art Jaeger has left his post as communications director for the National Cooperative Business Association to join the public relations firm Watson/Mulhern as senior director.

• The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers has added Heidi Kurtz as its new assistant director. Kurtz previously worked for the Federal Communications Bar Association and the Electricity Consumers Resource Council.

• Weyerhaeuser has a new lobbyist. Shari Brown joined the company’s federal affairs staff as a manager.

• Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz has nabbed Senate Appropriations staffer Mark Van de Water, who is joining as a senior policy adviser. Van de Water served as an adviser to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

• After taking off from a gig at the Transportation Department, Michael Wascom has landed at American Airlines, where he will be managing director for international and government Affairs. At the DOT, Wascom worked on such matters as Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation. He is also an alum of the Air Transport Association of America and the National Automobile Dealers Association.

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