K Street Files: Back in the Saddle Again

Posted February 11, 2009 at 6:40pm

The National Coalition on Health Care has named progressive activist Ralph Neas as its new chief executive officer, the group announced on Wednesday.

[IMGCAP(1)]Neas, a former Hill staffer for former Sens. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.) and David Durenberger (R-Minn.), most recently headed up People for the American Way and its affiliated grant-making group, the People for the American Way Foundation. The longtime civil rights activist left the organization in 2007.

The coalition is made up of unions, religious groups, insurance providers and government watchdogs such as Common Cause and U.S. PIRG.

The hiring of Neas comes as the White House and Congressional leaders plot an overhaul of the nation’s health care system, requiring substantial give-and-take from both parties and a colossal public relations blitz — the primary reasons Neas was enlisted, the group said.

In a statement, co-chairman of the coalition and former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, a Republican, said Neas’ “key strengths are his legislative skills, especially his ability to work with Republicans and Democrats and his extensive media and communications experience.”

Two Cents. The Business Roundtable on Wednesday added its voice to the chorus of advice sent to Members of Congress — a new briefing book with its proposed solutions for the economic crisis.

At a National Press Club Newsmaker Event, BRT Chairman Harold McGraw III also announced the formation of the Springboard Project, a program in which “leading thinkers from education, business, government, foundations, labor and the online world” will help prepare workers for 21st-century jobs.

The BRT represents 160 of the country’s biggest corporations, which together generate some $5 trillion in revenue and have about 10 million employees.

McGraw urged Congress to fund green technology job training programs, expand federal dislocated worker training programs and provide a worker-training tax credit for employers.

Energy expansion was also touted. “We have the technology to ensure our coastline, and the surrounding habitat, remains as pristine tomorrow as it is today,” McGraw said.

He also said the BRT supported more efforts on coal gasification, biomass and eventually nuclear energy.

But, he said, these would take time to develop. “As the economy recovers, you are going to see the desire and willingness to invest,” McGraw said.

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