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K Street Files: Houton’s Landing

The all-Republican lobby shop Whitmer & Worrall is branching into Democratic waters, adding seasoned political operative Robert Houton to its roster.

[IMGCAP(1)]Houton, who most recently served on President Barack Obama’s inaugural committee, joins as a principal and will manage the firm’s health care and tax practice. He will co-manage the shop’s energy practice.

The firm, which includes principals Tom Worrall and Martin Whitmer, decided to bring a Democrat on board after working with outside consultants.

“We really wanted to bring a seasoned Democrat in-house to better cover ourselves,— Whitmer said.

The firm, which counts Virgin America and Spanish company Abertis Infraestructuras as clients, has also added BPL Global and Thermal Flex Insulation to its client list this year.

Houton is no stranger to K Street. An aide on the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004, Houton also worked on tax issues for the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and focused on energy policy at the Building Owners and Managers Association.

Levey Leaves Citi. After staving off departures in its government relations office for months, Citigroup is losing its vice president for tax legislation, Jeff Levey, who is departing for Washington Council Ernst & Young. Levey, who spent 12 years at Citi, joins the firm as executive director.

Banks Cry Foul. The American Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions have banded together to oppose an interchange fee amendment that is likely to be attached to the credit card bill set to hit the Senate floor this week.

The quartet of financial services associations sent Senators a letter Monday saying the provision would drive credit unions and smaller banks out of the credit card business.

“Merchant access fees, sometimes called interchange,’ generate the income that pays for the extensive infrastructure costs, fraud risk, and nonpayment possibilities that are assumed by financial institutions involved in the payment system,— the groups wrote.

And they weren’t the only industry groups opposing the bill.

The Financial Services Roundtable also raised objections to the bill, sending its own letter. “The compromise will restrict the availability of credit and increase the cost of credit for all Americans,— FSR President Steve Bartlett wrote. “These are the exact opposite results of what consumers and the economy need right now.—

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