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K Street Files: Obama Hearts Chamber?

President Barack Obama may have chastised the lobbying community during his recent State of the Union address, calling for increased transparency for lobbying contacts. But it appears that the public fight between Obama and the biggest business lobby of them all, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has come to a détente — at least for now.

[IMGCAP(1)]Obama responded to a letter sent by Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue following the State of the Union, describing how the leader of the free world “looked forward” to working together on several proposals, including tax credits for small businesses, doubling exports over the next five years, expanding renewable energy and investing in transportation.

“I very much appreciate your offer of cooperation around the many areas of common concerns we share,” Obama wrote. “Understanding that we may not always agree on every issue or how to achieve the goals we all share, let us build on the progress we’ve seen and work together wherever possible to build an economy in which businesses and jobs are growing.”

The new tone follows Donohue’s scathing critique in January of the Obama administration’s agenda at the group’s annual State of American Business event. During his remarks, Donohue threatened to use the power of the chamber to defeat the president’s allies in the 2010 midterm elections.

Only time will tell if Obama and the chamber can stay on the new message of collaboration.

Cup of Joe. The days of lobbyists picking up the bar tab at the end of the night are over. But for Hill staffers there’s apparently still such a thing as getting their morning buzz for free, courtesy of the vending machine industry, which is coming to Capitol Hill today.

The National Automatic Merchandising Association is showing its wares in the Cannon Caucus Room from 9 a.m. to noon. The group, which represents the nearly $40 billion industry and employs more than 700,000 people, will have its newest products on display, even promising a machine that works a lot like the new iPad.

The Capitol Hill showcase comes as the group has been ramping up its Washington presence. The trade association registered to lobby for the first time in June and has spent nearly $200,000 on federal lobbying, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports.

Republican Outreach. After 26 years on Capitol Hill, Republican insider Brian Gaston is making the move to K Street in March. Gaston, who is currently a top adviser to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and was his chief of staff when Blunt was Majority Whip, is joining the Democratic-heavy Glover Park Group.

“I am looking forward to doing a similar thing from a different angle,” said Gaston, whose Hill résumé includes stints as policy director for then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and as deputy chief of staff and policy director for then-House Republican Conference Chairman John Boehner (Ohio).

“He’s a legend in our world, and we’re absolutely thrilled he chose us,” said Joel Johnson, a Glover Park managing director. “He is certainly without peer amongst his colleagues and has a reputation on both sides of the aisle as someone who is not only a pleasure to work with but one of the most capable and proven performers.”

Johnson noted that Glover Park Group, once an all-Democratic shop, is looking to bring on more lobbyists from both sides of the aisle.

Done Deal. After weeks of speculation, Compete America announced its decision to hire Monument Policy Group to manage the coalition’s lobbying campaign in 2010. The selection comes after members of the coalition also interviewed Podesta Group and Dewey Square Group in December for the gig. Monument Policy’s Jessica Herrera-Flanigan and Scott Corley will serve as executive directors of the coalition.

Corley has a history of championing Compete America. As director of government affairs at Microsoft, Corley served as chairman of the Advocacy Committee within the coalition. The coalition is also continuing to retain Fratelli Group for communications services.

QGA Expands. After several departures, Quinn Gillespie & Associates is bulking up its strategic communications capabilities by hiring Matt Dornic. Dornic joins the firm as director of QGA’s communications practice. The firm is also integrating Dornic’s 3 Dog Agency, a media strategy boutique he founded in 2007.

K Street Moves. Walter Moore is heading to the American Chemistry Council as vice president of federal affairs. Moore, who spent the past 16 years at Genentech where he was responsible for government relations, has worked for pharmaceutical and biotechnology giants such as Eli Lilly and Co., Pfizer and the American Hospital Association.

• David Rehr may no longer be the front man for the National Association of Broadcasters, but that doesn’t mean he’s done commenting on the media. Rehr just signed on to be media commentator on politics and policy at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. He will continue to serve as an adjunct professor at the school’s Council on American Politics.

• Eric Johnson, who was chief of staff to former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), has joined Akerman Senterfitt’s D.C. office as a consultant.

• After serving as interim director since July 2009, Tammy Cota has been named executive director of the Internet Alliance, an Internet, e-commerce and technology advocacy group.

Kate Ackley contributed to this report.

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