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K Street Files: Coalition on the Charge

An unusual array of small-business trade associations are joining together to fight for additional support to help unfreeze credit markets for small companies. Nearly 30 groups, including the American Apparel & Footwear Association, Associated General Contractors of America, International Franchise Association, and Marine Retailers Association of America have formed the Small Business Access to Credit Coalition.

[IMGCAP(1)]The coalition sent a letter last week to Members of Congress asking them to extend the Small Business Administration loan guaranty provisions and increase the maximum loan size.

“A lot of people on the letter are not traditionally involved in SBA lending,— said David French, a lobbyist with the International Franchise Association. “The demand for loans is not being met. … We wanted to demonstrate broad-based support from a very broad range of affected sectors.—

The American International Automobile Dealers Association, Associated Builders & Contractors Inc., International Council of Shopping Centers, National Restaurant Association and National Association of Manufacturers are also part of the coalition.

French said he is more optimistic of legislation passing given the White House’s recent announcement that it also supports increasing the limit of many of the SBA loans from $2 million to $5 million.

The coalition is in its early stages, with some of the groups lobbying in tandem but for the most part still working the Hill on an individual basis. French said that could change depending on the response the coalition gets from Congress.

Daniels Jumps Ship. The Financial Services Roundtable is losing its banking lobbyist, Irving Daniels. Daniels, vice president of banking and securities at the trade group, is leaving for the Marwood Group after seven years at FSR. The Marwood Group is a health care advisory and financial services firm headquartered in New York City.

Daniels was one of the few remaining Democrats at the trade association. He previously served as legislative counsel to former Rep. Floyd Flake (D-N.Y.) and as an aide to House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).

But FSR won’t be missing Daniels’ blue pedigree for long.

FSR’s Scott Talbott said the group will make an announcement on Daniels’ replacement in the near future.

“We look at substance first, but Irving’s replacement is a D,— Talbott said.

Weight Watchers Bulks Up. A diet company known around the country for helping people slim down is making a name for itself inside the Beltway by hiring Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates. Weight Watchers International Inc. is focusing its efforts on obesity prevention provisions in the health care bills, according to Timothy Hannegan, the lead lobbyist on the account.

“They want to become part of the discussion around obesity prevention,— said Hannegan, president of the firm.

Marla Viorst, Jack Howard, Jody Hoffman and Daniella Landau are also registered to lobby for the client.

But don’t expect the company to throw its weight behind different versions of health care reform, though it backs certain aspects in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee measure.

“There are sections in the Senate HELP bill on obesity prevention, and to the extent there is a bill, Weight Watchers is very supportive of those efforts,— Hannegan said.

Ups and Downs. While overall lobbying expenditures have been rising steadily this year, there are big differences between industries as to whether companies ratcheted up their spending to influence legislation and federal agency action.

Lobbying clients spent $857 million in the third quarter of this year, according to an analysis of the latest disclosure filings with the Senate. That compares with $849 million in the second quarter and $837 million in the first three months of 2009. The third-quarter numbers should rise even more because a number of companies have yet to file even though the deadline was Oct. 20.

The biggest boost in spending came in the business and retail sector, which shelled out $89 million in the third quarter, a 38.8 percent increase from the previous three months. Much of that increase was driven by a record $34.5 million lobbying bill racked up by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Lobbying by manufacturing companies was up 10.7 percent in the third quarter, and organized labor was up 1.4 percent.

However, lobbying expenditures dipped in many other areas, including energy, real estate, finance, defense, communications, and state and local governments.

Most surprising, the health care sector was down 3.4 percent from the previous quarter. However, in total lobbying dollars, health care interests still led other sectors by a wide margin, doling out more than $153 million over the three-month period.

K Street Moves. Anthony Coley has jumped to the Brunswick Group. Coley most recently served as communications director to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Alex Knott contributed to this report.

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