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K Street Files: Doling out Greenbacks

Just because the economy is down in the dumps didn’t stop people from spreading the wealth on K Street. In fact, the second-quarter lobbying disclosure filings were rife with million-dollar spenders.

[IMGCAP(1)]On top of that heap: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The association continued its dominance at the top of the list, spending $17.7 million during the first six months of the year. The chamber topped the $11.7 million it spent during the first half of 2007.

Folks over at the chamber weren’t all that surprised with its No. 1 status. The organization had a litany of high-profile fights, including a sex-discrimination bill that it helped defeat, the Colombia free-trade agreement, and climate change and tax-extender issues, according to the chamber’s Bruce Josten.

“We spent a lot of time on tax issues under PAYGO,” Josten said. “We obviously want the extenders, and keep working on that.”

The chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform spent an additional $10.6 million, up from nearly $9.4 million during the first six months of 2007.

The chamber wasn’t the only association doling out the big bucks in 2008.

Other groups, including AARP, the American Medical Association and PhRMA, were all at the top of the pack. AARP spent $13.7 million during the first six months. AMA and PhRMA

spent $10.89 million and $8.6 million, respectively.

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman surged to the top of the lobby list for corporations, spending $11.6 million, $8.3 million of which was spent in the second quarter of this year as it defended itself against Congressional attacks over the Air Force tanker deal. That is nearly double the $5.6 million it spent during the same time period last year.

General Electric and Exxon Mobil slipped in behind Northrop, spending $9.6 million and $8.1 million, respectively.

The big shocker of the first half of the year was a report that Valerie Osborne of Osborne Consulting filed on behalf of Mount Nittany Medical Center for a whopping $6 million.

While surely Osborne gave the Pennsylvania-based hospital her best lobbying efforts, the report was incorrectly filed, according to Osborne. An amendment filed July 22 reveals that Osborne actually billed just $6,000 to the client.

Matchmaker. When Democratic lobbyist Alan Roth departed his lobby shop Lent Scrivner & Roth to become a top executive at the U.S. Telecom Association, his former business partners were in a bind. “He left a hole here,” Michael Scrivner said. “We needed to fill it.”

Roth reached out to Rick Kessler, a former colleague of his from the office of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), to see if he might be interested in talking to his former partners. What began as a conversation that might have wooed Kessler to Scrivner and Norm Lent’s firm, ended up last week with Scrivner, Lent and another member of their firm, Peter Leon, deciding to join Kessler’s operation at Dow Lohnes Government Strategies.

“I just wanted to find a way to have my cake and eat it, too,” Kessler said. “I wanted to work with Mike and Norm and Pete as well. And I wanted to stay here. Getting our friends to come work with us is a great thing.”

The one remaining Lent Scrivner & Roth lobbyist, Ric Molen, is in the process of setting up a solo business, he said, that will focus on appropriations, natural resources, energy and environmental policy.

New Identity. Time to get new business cards. Troutman Sanders Public Affairs Group didn’t even merge with another firm, but it has changed its name to Troutman Sanders Strategies. “The name change reflects the firm’s substantial growth since its founding in 2002 and its expanding business and geographic presence,” firm Chairman Pete Robinson explained. Added colleague Rob Leebern, “We’ve chosen a name that better defines a national firm that impacts government through advocacy.” The firm has 20 federal and state lobbyists.

Movie Night. Looking for something to do Wednesday evening? How about a screening of the upcoming Kevin Costner comedy “Swing Vote,” courtesy of Grover Norquist and the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation. Billed as “a widely attended event,” and therefore apparently kosher under new ethics rules, there is still something of a price of admission: a discussion of property rights hosted by Norquist, who is president of the foundation.

K Street Moves. Heather Podesta + Partners now equals seven. The firm has added Anne Wonsettler, formerly a special assistant in the legislative affairs office for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D). She will focus on infrastructure, health care and education policy issues. In a news statement, Rendell said Wonsettler “is a rare combination of superior intellect and dazzling people skills.”

• Dave Ransom, senior communications and policy adviser to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), is leaving Capitol Hill for K Street next month. Ransom, an attorney who spent nearly a decade on Hoyer’s staff, will become legislative counsel at McDermott Will & Emery.

“I told Mr. Hoyer I had this opportunity and my intention was to take it, but I wanted him to be good with it,” Ransom said. “I told [Hoyer] that he has given me tremendous opportunities, and I have more respect for him now than when I first started. When anybody starts a new job, they make a lot of mistakes, and he stuck with me.”

In a statement, Hoyer said, “His insight into the Congressional leadership and the Members who serve here will be of great value to McDermott Will & Emery’s clients.”

• David Karmol joins the International Code Council as vice president of federal and external relations. Karmol had been a VP of public policy at ANSI.

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