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K Street Files: A GOP Invasion?

The rhetoric from the floor of the Democratic National Convention may be purely partisan, but leave it to the K Streeters here in Denver to bring about a little bipartisan comity.

[IMGCAP(1)]Big-time GOPers are even hosting functions in the Mile High City.

Citi’s top lobbyist, Nick Calio, joined two of his Democratic colleagues, Jimmy Ryan and Colin Dowling, in throwing a cocktail reception Monday evening at Sullivan’s of Denver, a dimly lit 1940s-style steakhouse that would feel like home to any D.C. lobbyist.

Of course, Sullivan’s speaks more to Ryan’s Irish roots than Calio’s Italian ones. “Where else would you expect a guy named Jimmy Ryan to hold a party?” Ryan quipped.

Calio, the former top Congressional liaison for President Bush, wasn’t the only Republican there.

His former deputy at the Bush White House, Ziad Ojakli, a top lobbyist for Ford Motor Co., was there along with his colleague, Democrat Bruce Andrews. Another GOPer, Lisa Nelson, a lobbyist with Visa USA, mingled with the group.

Other Democrats at the bipartisan soiree included Chuck Brain of Capitol Hill Strategies and Carmencita Whonder of Brownstein Hyatt Farber.

“I have a lot of friends who are Democrats,” Calio explained.

The bipartisanship continued outside Sullivan’s, where AT&T’s top lobbyist and a loyal supporter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Tim McKone, chatted it up with Bert Carp, a Democratic lobbyist from Williams & Jensen.

Comedy on a Schtick. If laughter is the best medicine, perhaps it’s also the best way of delivering a lobbying and political message.

The Arab American Institute and its sister foundation showed at a Monday night event in Denver that if they were going to mix religion, politics and race, they might as well do it with a whole lot of humor.

The organizations, along with political consultant and AAI founder James Zogby, hosted “Comedy Kabob” at Bar Standard.

Arab-American comedians made cracks about being something of a pariah, especially when it comes to this election year in which White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has been “smeared” as a Muslim, which he is not (he’s Christian).

“They’re using Muslim as a derogatory,” said comedian Dean Obeidallah, who has performed on “The View,” CNN and PBS.

He joked that pretty soon Muslim is going to be like the N-word and non-Muslims won’t be able to use it and will have to adopt a “politically correct” term like “pork-free Americans,” while Muslims will use the word freely.

“What up, my Muslim?” Obeidallah said fellow Muslims will say to one another, giving a glimpse of the new vernacular.

He also joked that he would love to see Obama, when taking the oath of office, confess that he is a Muslim: “The day he’s sworn in, he says, ‘Guess what? I am a Muslim. Allah Akbar, bitches!”

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) also took to the stage, though with a more serious message. But Rahall, who is of Arab descent, said it’s good to poke fun at ourselves.

Rahall, the performers, and Zogby also expressed their support for Obama. “We’re nonpartisan,” Zogby said of the institute, “but I am not.”

Comedian Ahmed Ahmed emceed the night. He said that even though he’s a Democrat and supports Obama, he will miss making jokes about President Bush. But, he had an idea for Bush’s post-White House career: to take over the reins of terrorist organization al-Qaida.

“If he runs al-Qaida like he runs America, he’ll run it into the ground,” Ahmed said.

Standing Room Only. The organizers of an Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld brunch on Tuesday morning need not fear being called into question for violating new, stricter ethics rules.

The event, honoring firm partner and longtime Democratic insider Vernon Jordan, took place in Denver’s new, expansive Ritz-Carlton ballroom, but contained only eight chairs and zero forks.

“You all will notice the absence of forks,” Akin Gump lobbyist Joel Jankowsky said during his introduction of Jordan. “Do not try to eat food with the spoons being served with the coffee,” he admonished.

Among the Members present were Democratic Reps. Steve Israel (N.Y.), Doris Matsui (Calif.) and Bill Foster (Ill.). The crowd also included a large contingent from K Street: Akin Gump’s Vic Fazio, the former Democratic Congressman from California; Motion Picture Association of America chief Dan Glickman; Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group; lobbyists Bob Moss and Kate Moss; and Jarvis Stewart of Stewart Partners.

One unexpected guest was actor Wendell Pierce, best known for playing the character Bunk on HBO’s “The Wire.” He said he was in town to not only support Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) but also to keep attention focused on the rebuilding of New Orleans, his hometown.

The “finger food” included an assortment of doughnut holes, mini quiches, crab cakes on a stick and a bar that included such concoctions as strawberry-orange juice served in martini glasses with fruit.

Home Run. More than two dozen corporations and associations rented out Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, for the day on Tuesday, giving Members, lobbyists and little kids the chance to take in some batting practice on real major league grounds.

The highlight of the day: Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) hitting one out of the park.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was also there with his son, taking in the clear-blue sky and the park’s distant view of the Rocky Mountains.

Like any good ballgame, the event featured beer and burgers — all courtesy of a long list of sponsors. They included Citi, Consumer Electronics Association, BNSF Railway, AT&T, AstraZeneca, Amgen, American Chemistry Council, Brown Rudnick, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, U.S. Telecom, Qwest, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, National Association of Manufacturers, Lilly, Koch and Comcast.

The names of those sponsors rotated throughout the event on the scoreboards.

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