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Hedge Fund Watch

K Street’s payday from the Congressional look at higher taxes for the booming private capital industry is far from over. Already, the prospect of higher levies on the new kings of Wall Street spawned the year’s most lucrative lobbying contract, with Ogilvy Government Relations collecting $3.74 million through June from its work for the Blackstone Group. [IMGCAP(1)]

With action on any tax hike likely spilling into next year, eager lobbyists have found no shortage of opportunities to cash in.

Filings posted last week by the Secretary of the Senate reveal the latest:

Capitol Hill Strategies has signed up to represent the National Venture Capital Association; hedge fund HBK Capital Management inked a deal with Fennel Consulting; and Oaktree Capital Management added independent consultant Eric Zolt to a team that already includes Navigant Consulting and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Going From Green to Blue? Brussels has given U.S. techie lobbyists a new tool in their fight for immigration reforms.

The European Union last week introduced a new proposal to attract highly skilled workers to its member countries. Known as a “blue card,” the proposal is aimed at trying to get sought-after workers in technology and engineering, among other professions, to select life in Europe over life in the United States.

The idea couldn’t have come at a better time for tech lobbyists, who are furiously trying to convince Members that in the absence of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, Congress must pass reforms to the high-skilled H-1B visa program in particular.

“There’s a pool of talent out there,” said Ralph Hellmann, chief lobbyist for the Information Technology Industry Council. High-tech workers “who are in the U.S. who are stuck in this green card hell, H-1B visa hell, may just say, ‘the heck with this, I’m going to leave America and go to Europe.’”

One impasse on improving high-tech workers’ visas has come from Hispanic Members and immigrant lobbying groups. They want a comprehensive bill and don’t want Congress to do things piecemeal because that could mean there will ultimately be less interest in doing a larger bill.

There has been movement on that front, lobbyists say. On Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Congressional Hispanic Caucus members, according to sources familiar with the meeting. “They have a potential opening on immigration reform, and they’re exploring it now,” one lobbyist said.

To bolster the point, a coalition of tech groups known as Compete America next week plans to try to illustrate the Europe vs. America fight by handing out freshly printed blue/green cards to Members and key staffers.

One side of the card, modeled after the U.S. green card, will read: “The Highly Educated Will Just Have to Wait.” The other side, which is blue, will read: “The European Union Welcomes Highly Educated Professionals.”

“If [these workers] think the green card process and visa process are going to be screwed up for years to come if nothing is done by Congress, the EU regulations could be in place, and suddenly there is a real fear for us,” Hellmann said. “We don’t want to lose these people to Europe, or lose the race for the people we want to come to America.”

Harvesting Business. Eric Prag, a one-time intern to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and a former staff aide to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), has reaped a business niche from the farm bill. He has signed up three clients who are interested in keeping the Farmer-to-Farmer Program funded in the bill.

That program, part of USAID, provides assistance to farmers, farm groups and agricultural businesses in developing countries by sending U.S. volunteers to the countries to help out.

Prag’s clients are Land O’Lakes, Winrock International and ACDI/VOCA.

“The Farmer-to-Farmer program is an exchange program,” said Prag, a former consultant with BearingPoint. “They send farmers overseas to share information with farmers in developing nations.”

K Street Moves. Kathleen Harrington, who started her career as a legislative aide for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and formerly served in the Clinton administration, has joined Dutko Worldwide.

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