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K Street Files: ‘The Greatest Cause?’

It was two sentences tucked inside a 2000 appropriations bill. But over the years, the Data Quality Act — which directs the Office of Management and Budget to make sure that all information disseminated by the federal government is reliable — has proved a potent lobbying tool.

[IMGCAP(1)]By requiring the government to use data that have reached a near-perfect level of certainty, critics say the legislation has provided industry with a convenient means of eliminating scientific information that in the past might have triggered stricter legislation.

But the law, of course, is available to anyone, including the marijuana lobby, which earlier this month formally filed a Data Quality Act petition with the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The petition, filed on Oct. 16 by the Marijuana Policy Project, takes issue with the title of a July 2008 report by the ONDCP called “Marijuana: The Greatest Cause of Illegal Drug Abuse.”

The 20-page report includes such chapter headers as “Juvenile Delinquent Behavior Is Closely Associated with Marijuana Use” and “Marijuana Is the Most Commonly Used Illicit Drug.”

Marijuana Policy Project Director of Government Relations Aaron Houston says the title is erroneous.

The Data Quality Act, he said, “deals with the quality of information that is presented. And the crux of this,” he said, “is that there is not factual support for [the report’s title], that it relies on a pretty big inference.”

The office has 60 days to respond to the petition, said ONDCP spokeswoman Jennifer de Vallance, adding that “legal counsel and relevant staff are reviewing the complaint.”

“The only real problem they have is the title,” she noted, “and it’s questionable whether the title represents actual data.”

Responded Houston: “Obviously the title is one of the most salient pieces of information that they are providing.”

Online Gambling Rules a Comin’. Internet gambling advocates hoping that the financial crisis might have pushed aside efforts by the Justice Department, Treasury and Federal Reserve from producing

final online gambling regulations could be sorely disappointed in the coming weeks.

After months of inaction, there is a renewed effort going on to push the regulations across the finish line.

“Based on our conversations with the folks over at Justice, we’re confident and hopeful that the regs will be finalized by the end of this year,” said Ryan Patmintra, spokesman for Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Online gambling institutions and banks have opposed a 2006 law that would require banks and credit card companies to block payments by Americans to Internet gambling companies based overseas.

“We need a clear definition of unlawful Internet gambling,” Andy Barbour of the Financial Services Roundtable said. “We need a clearer mechanism [for determining] who is an unlawful Internet gambler. These regs don’t do either of those things well enough to provide the clarity we would look for,” he said, referring to the preliminary regulations.

The Poker Players Alliance, a behemoth among the online gambling industry lobby, has long opposed the law. Unsuccessful in its attempts at repeal, the group is weighing what it will do when the final regs are published.

Executive Director John Pappas said the group is taking a “wait and see approach” on whether to initiate a lobbying push before the end of the year. “Those determinations will be made after the rules become final,” Pappas said.

K Street Moves. Jonathan Renfrew joined law firm Brown Rudnick as a director in the government law strategies group. Renfrew most recently served as chief of staff to Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.).

• Tom Sullivan joined Nelson Mullins’ government relations practice. Sullivan joins the firm after seven years as chief counsel for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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