K Street Files: Burris’ Boys

Posted January 20, 2009 at 6:37pm

Newly installed Illinois Sen. Roland Burris (D) may be a creature of the Prairie State, but he isn’t a stranger to everyone in Washington, D.C.

[IMGCAP(1)]His cupboard of K Street confidants is limited, but not completely barren. In fact, most of his inside-the-Beltway connections go back to the 1980s when he served as comptroller for the state of Illinois.

During that time, Bockorny Group’s Scott Shearer worked alongside Burris as chief fiscal officer for the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office.

More recently, Shearer said they met up in Denver at the Democratic National Convention.

Former Illinois state Sen. Gary LaPaille (D) of mCapitol Management is also a longtime Burris friend.

LaPaille worked for Burris as deputy for legislative affairs during his tenure as comptroller.

“He was the first African-American statewide elected official at the time,” LaPaille said. “He definitely had visions to move to higher office.”

Fellow Illinoisan Charles Smith of the PMA Group also knows Burris from his days as an aide to then-Illinois Secretary of State Alan Dixon (D), who went on to serve in the Senate.

So far, Burris’ former aides say they’ve checked in with his staff but otherwise are giving the newly appointed Senator time to settle in.

That could last just until the next battle in the Senate when they are looking for Burris’ vote.

Seeing Red. When the Financial Services Roundtable replaced Democratic lobbyist, Vice President for Insurance Andrew Barbour, with a GOPer, little did the trade group know what a ruckus it would cause on K Street.

Democratic lobbyists are grousing about the association’s hire of Peter Freeman —not because Freeman is unqualified, but because of the big “R” that follows his name. Freeman jumped to the private sector earlier this month after serving as deputy chief of staff to then-Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio).

“There’s a collective griping,” said a Democratic lobbyist, questioning the continued dominance of Republicans on K Street.

The Roundtable, which is headed by former Texas Rep. Steve Bartlett (R), isn’t making apologies.

Republicans and Democrats are hired based on their technical qualifications and aren’t just assigned to lobby offices of their particular political bent, according to Scott Talbott, the group’s senior vice president for government affairs.

Mulligan. Whole Foods Inc. has asked a Washington, D.C., appellate court to determine whether the Federal Trade Commission violated the company’s due process rights.

The high-end grocery chain, which recently enlisted Clinton White House lawyer and lobbyist Lanny Davis, is locked in a prolonged battle with federal regulators over its merger with rival chain Wild Oats. The two retailers announced the merger more than a year ago, but the proposed union is being challenged by the FTC over concerns that Whole Foods would unfairly dominate the “premium natural and organic supermarket” sector.

“Whole Foods Market is interested in getting to the merits of this case as quickly as possible rather than spending everyone’s valuable time and resources arguing about jurisdiction,” Jim Sud, a Whole Foods executive, said in a statement last week. “Filing with the Court of Appeals, which the FTC concedes has jurisdiction over the case, saves time and we want to move this case forward in the most expeditious manner for all concerned.”

Members of House Judiciary Committee have attempted to intervene in the case, telling the FTC in a letter last month that they were concerned with how regulators were overseeing the merger.

In addition to hiring Davis late last year, the chain also has brought on former Clinton staffers Joe Lockhart and Joel Johnson of the Glover Park Group.

K Street Moves. Former Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio) is moving to the private sector, joining Vorys Advisors, an affiliate of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. The former House Appropriations Committee member, who retired in 2008 after 18 years in Congress, will work from Vorys’ Columbus, Ohio, office.

• Capitol Counsel is expanding its lobbying footprint, adding Catherine Finley and Tucker Shumack, former aides to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Finley, who will focus on health policy, most recently worked as a staff director for the Senate Aging Committee for Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). She previously was a senior health policy adviser for Snowe. Shumack, who will focus on tax issues, served as tax and finance counsel to Snowe, who is on the Senate Finance Committee.

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