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K Street Files: Checking In

The Hilton Hotels Corp. — which is currently in the process of moving its global headquarters from Beverly Hills, Calif., to McLean, Va. — is already acting like a savvy Beltway insider. The company has just hired a top in-house lobbyist.

[IMGCAP(1)]Jonas Neihardt, most recently a vice president for Qualcomm, will join Hilton next month as its senior vice president of government affairs, a newly created position for the company. He will report to Richard Lucas, a longtime partner at Arnold & Porter who has been Hilton’s executive vice president and general counsel since 2008.

Lucas said he and Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta, who joined in late 2007, were surprised the company did not have a lobbying operation. “We thought it was very important that the company be engaged with the government,— Lucas said. “We saw a need for somebody experienced and well-regarded, so we decided we were going to create the position, even before we decided to move the company’s headquarters.—

Hilton tapped the search firm Korn/Ferry International and Nels Olson to conduct the search, Lucas added.

Neihardt will focus on several issues for Hilton, including the Employee Free Choice Act, immigration reform and tourism promotion.

“It’s a rare opportunity when you’ve got a company with Hilton’s history and world-respected brand and a new management team with an exciting and entrepreneurial vision to extend the family of brands around the world,— said Neihardt, who worked in the White House Office of Management and Budget in the administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Neihardt said he has done legislative work for both sides of the aisle and has also done fundraising work for Members of both political parties. “If you can’t work well with the two parties, you’re not trying hard enough,— he said.

Initially, Neihardt’s focus will be on domestic government affairs, but he will also serve as the point person on global public policy matters.

Seeing Blue. Comcast has added two new Democratic-connected lobbyists to its roster. Joe Trahern is coming aboard as senior director of federal government affairs, and Rudy Brioché will be senior director of external affairs and public policy counsel.

Trahern, a Clinton administration alumnus and one-time chief of staff to Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and the late Rep. Bob Matsui (D-Calif.), most recently was a lobbyist for General Motors.

Brioché, a former aide to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), is joining Comcast from the Federal Communications Commission, where he was a legal adviser to Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. 

Late last year, Comcast reorganized its in-house lobbying shop, which resulted in its Republican D.C. chief, Kerry Knott, a former chief of staff to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), leaving the company.

A Tough Sell. The National Abstinence Education Association is continuing to hold out hope that Congress will reinstate the $95 million the Obama administration zeroed out for abstinence education in the 2010 budget.

The NAEA has been walking the halls of Congress this year, pushing members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education to keep the funding used to teach abstinence education to about 2 million students.

“We communicate with members of both sides of the aisle. This didn’t start out as a Republican or Democratic issue,— NAEA Executive Director Valerie Huber said. “We have teen birth rates at epidemic proportions; Why on earth would we want to take anything out of the toolbox that can help them make healthy choices?—

The NAEA, which was formed in 2007, has been working alongside BGR Group and C2 Group to get lawmakers to add the funds.

The money is distributed in a competitive grant process through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Huber says the department has noted how highly competitive the grants are, with only about 10 percent of those that apply ever getting funded.

Even if the group doesn’t see the money reinstated at today’s markup, it says abstinence advocates won’t go away.

Huber says they’ll work to get it funded at the full-committee level or even on the Senate floor.

“We’re not going to give up on the youth,— she said.

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