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Investor Relations

Correction Appended

Shareholder advocates, unions and consumer groups are stepping up their campaign to try to sway the Democratic leadership as Members look for job candidates for two of the party’s open slots on the Securities and Exchange Commission.

These advocates said they are unhappy with some of the potential nominees whose names have surfaced in recent weeks, including a securities and financial services lawyer at WilmerHale, Yoon-Young Lee, and Luis Aguilar, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge.

Late last week, shareholder activist Robert Monks sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) encouraging him to pick only nominees with a background in “safeguarding” investor rights. [IMGCAP(1)]

“I and many other advocates for investor protections are disturbed by the early ‘trial balloons’ that have been floated as potential nominees,” Monks wrote. “I urge you to stand up for investors and nominate only experienced and forceful advocates for shareholder rights.”

Dan Pedrotty, director of the Office of Investment at the AFL-CIO, said his union has been reaching out to Members with much the same message.

“With all the names circulating, we the institutional investor community really aren’t satisfied that there’s somebody with a demonstrated track record of being an advocate and having the necessary expertise to really be a champion for investor rights on the commission,” Pedrotty said. “It’s critical that we can have someone who can speak with a strong voice on behalf of our members’ pension funds.”

Sources in the investor community said Aguilar’s name has been pushed by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), whose office did not comment for this story. Menendez has indicated that he would like to see greater diversity on the commission. Aguilar, who did not return a call for comment, also is a contributor to Menendez’s campaign.

These sources said Lee’s name has had the backing of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a recipient of campaign donations from many of Lee’s clients, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. Lee declined comment. Schumer’s office did not return a call.

For their part, Pedrotty said the AFL-CIO is pushing such names as Duke University law professor James Cox and Elisse Walter, who is with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

“What we’re communicating to the Senators is that this is really important that they get this right at this crucial time for the commission,” Pedrotty said. “They will be safeguarding Sarbanes-Oxley.”

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid’s office, said he couldn’t comment on the SEC nomination process other than to say that they are moving “as quickly as possible” to fill the slots.

Red Zone. Said Hakki, president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, left the Red Zone of Baghdad for the Beltway last week where he pushed Members of Congress and executive branch officials for funding for his group.

With lobbyists from Cassidy & Associates and the Carmen Group in tow, Hakki said he had meetings with Defense Department officials and with the offices of Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), among others. “If I had more money, I would get more lobbyists to help me,” Hakki said in an interview. “I need to put across that we have a humanitarian crisis in Iraq. I have a problem I don’t think two firms can solve.”

For the first half of 2007, Hakki’s group paid Cassidy & Associates $180,000, according to lobbying reports filed with the Senate, and $140,000 to the Carmen Group.

Hakki said he is a U.S. citizen who returned to Iraq, leaving behind his family and medical practice in Florida, to help run the group, which he said operates in every neighborhood in Iraq and on a $62 million annual budget. He said the group is jointly led by Sunni, Shiite and Kurds and that its vehicles are not targeted for attack.

Last year, Hakki said, his organization provided food, medicine and other services to just less than 250,000 displaced persons. This year, he said, there are nearly 2 million displaced persons.

The Red Crescent group, which is affiliated with the Red Cross, is looking for funding from USAID or though such vehicles as the supplemental appropriations for the Iraq War. “We need a lot of help,” he said.

K Street Moves. The National Head Start Association has hired Luis Burguillo Jr. as director of government affairs. Prior to joining the NHSA team, Burguillo served as program manager and policy adviser for the ASPIRA Inc., a national Hispanic education association.

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Clarification: Oct. 23, 2007
The column incorrectly implied that the Council on Institutional Investors, like the AFL-CIO, was pushing specific names for SEC commissioners. The council has said it favors SEC nominees who strongly support investor protections; but it does not endorse or oppose specific candidates.

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