Slow Start

Posted February 1, 2008 at 6:37pm

If business development on K Street feels like it’s going in slow motion so far this year, it may be because it is.

[IMGCAP(1)]With little besides the stimulus debate stirring interest on the Hill, new lobbying registrations received by the Secretary of the Senate topped out at a meager 122 in January, Senate records show. Compare that with last January, when a newly installed Democratic Congress and a packed legislative agenda spawned 305 new registrations.

Tort, Re-Tort. It’s no secret that the folks at the American Tort Reform Association don’t like real-life trial lawyers, but apparently the group’s disdain carries over to fictional “ambulance chasers” as well. ATRA has launched a campaign against a new legal drama “Eli Stone” on ABC.

The first episode, which aired Thursday, featured a case against a vaccine maker brought by a parent with an autistic child. Medical experts have widely discredited a theory that vaccines cause autism, but Eli Stone won the case against the company — much to ATRA’s chagrin. (The American Academy of Pediatrics, too, blasted the autism episode as the “height of reckless irresponsibility.”)

“What the show did in this instance is fly in the face of a massive body of scientific research,” said ATRA’s director of communications, Darren McKinney.

“When you have shows like this, which are essentially extensions of the tort bar’s expanding agenda, and [real-life] lawsuits accrue, it’s a problem.”

So much so that this week McKinney is penning an editorial in The Washington Times against the drama.

The trial lawyer lobby, American Association for Justice, isn’t backing down either.

“While it is hard to take serious a screed by ATRA, who makes light of a serious health issue,” AAJ spokeswoman Cecelia Prewett wrote in an e-mail, “Americans should consider the following: It is our country’s justice system that has allowed people to expose the fact that companies like Merck knew for years that Vioxx could cause heart attacks before pulling it from the market.”

She added that “ATRA is the same organization that also supported efforts to give these same drug companies immunity in 2005 from victims of their misconduct.”

Case closed?

Lobbyists for McCain. A group of young K Streeters for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will spend Super Tuesday helping their candidate fill his presidential coffers. McCain himself won’t make it to the $100-per-person event — he plans to

be in Arizona — but organizers say they are working on getting McCain to call in or video-conference in to the party.

“As momentum has grown, more people are coming on board,” said Kirk Blalock, a lobbyist with Fierce Isakowitz & Blalock, who is an organizer of the Young Professionals 4 McCain Committee.

Lobbyists on the 50-person host committee include Blalock’s colleague Kirsten Chadwick; Clark Lytle & Geduldig’s Sam Geduldig; Todd Weiss of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal; and Juleanna Glover of the Ashcroft Group.

Among the newcomers is lobbyist Andrew Shore, a partner with Black Swan.

“After supporting Rudy Giuliani, with him out of the race, John McCain is the best candidate to keep the White House in Republican hands, and I believe that Tuesday will be a victory party,” he said.

Name Change. Bartlett Bendall & Kadesh is putting a new name on its door. With the departure of Mark Kadesh, a former chief of staff to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the lobbying shop is changing its name to the Eris Group.

Lobbyist Greg Mesack said the moniker is shared by one of the most recently discovered and named small planets in the solar system. It also happens to be a Greek goddess of strife and discord.

“We had to come up with a new name, and we wanted something that is different but stable,” Mesack said. “Eris is something that is easier to remember, to spell, easier to put in the e-mail address.”

K Street Moves. The Bockorny Group has added Sander Lurie, the former chief of staff to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), as a lobbyist at the firm.

Lurie’s tenure on the Hill also included serving as chief of staff to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and deputy staff director to the Senate Budget Committee.

• Strat@comm has expanded its Washington, D.C., team with Chris Bonner and Allen Hepner, who are joining as senior vice presidents, and new vice president Kathryn Stack.

• Policy Impact Communications has hired John Haddow, who has focused on state and federal lobbying for three decades, and Alvin Jackson Jr., a former director of legislative affairs for The Boeing Co. and a one-time lobbyist with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, as principals.

Haddow previously worked at Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms.

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.

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