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K Street Files: Retailers Try to Sell Senate on Swipe Fee Reform

A collection of retailers is lobbying to get its signature priority, a credit card interchange fee measure, added to the Wall Street reform bill.

Some 55 organizations — including the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association and the Retail Industry Leaders Association — sent a letter to all Senators urging them to include interchange fee “reform” on the Wall Street bill.

“Unless relief is granted, hidden interchange ‘swipe fees,’ which amounted to $48 billion in 2008, will continue to rise as credit card companies and their largest issuing banks seek even higher profits, primarily on the backs of our organizations’ members,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the National Association of Convenience Stores joined with Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) to deliver 2 million new customer signatures collected during the NACS Stop Unfair Swipe Fees campaign. Previously, the store 7-Eleven collected 1.7 million signatures urging “swipe fee reform.”

NACS also signed the Senate letter.

John Emling, senior vice president for government affairs at RILA, said that if Wall Street reform legislation does not address the credit and debit card swipe fees it “would be devastating for retailers, large and small.”

“Congress must consider the consequences of leaving merchants exposed to the credit card industry, who will raise rates to make up for lost revenue resulting from failing portfolios and industry reforms which have sought to rein in their harmful practices,” Emling said in a statement.

Comeback Kid?

Mark Alsalih made a brief run as a Washington power broker as a partner at the now-defunct Alexander Strategy Group, a firm that had close ties to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Now the Texan is making a move to reappear on the international lobbying front.

Alsalih signed up the Iraqi political party Tajdeed Electoral Slate earlier this year, according to reports filed with the Department of Justice. While Alsalih registered to work on behalf of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, he has not yet provided his contract or divulged what the scope of his work will be with al-Hashimi to the Department of Justice.

They’ll Drink to That

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States ratcheted up its efforts to bring small distillers to Capitol Hill, holding its first lobby day on Tuesday for the trade association’s Craft Distiller Affiliate members.

“The purpose of this is to harness the growing number of small distillers that have sprung up in the last five years across the U.S.,” DISCUS’ Frank Coleman said.

The small distiller contingent now has about two dozen members. And more than half came to Washington to meet with their Members of Congress and to show off their products at a reception Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

“There are lots of public policy issues that affect distillers large and small,” Coleman said, noting that taxes are at the top of DISCUS members’ agenda. “Our basic message to Members of Congress is we’re not here asking for a bailout. Just do no harm, don’t give us a kick in the teeth.”

DISCUS President Peter Cressy, along with the group’s lobbyists Mark Gorman, Michele Famiglietti and David Culver, were all expected to participate.

Broadcast News

Former Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who became president of the National Association of Broadcasters in September, has recruited one of his former Congressional aides to serve as his deputy. Smith hired Christopher Ornelas as NAB’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer. He will join the group on May 10.

“Chris Ornelas is a proven leader for whom I have enormous respect,” Smith said in a statement. “His deep understanding of Washington and telecommunications policy will serve radio and television broadcasters well, and I am thrilled to have him join our team.”

Ornelas most recently worked at the law and lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where he focused on telecommunications and technology policy. Before that, Ornelas served as Smith’s chief counsel on communications and technology policy.

K Street Moves

• Kerry McKenney has joined Monument Strategies as vice president. McKenney was chief of staff to Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.).

• Ketchum has brought on Josie Martin, who most recently led GolinHarris’ public affairs practice, as senior vice president in the firm’s Washington office.

• The Creative Coalition’s Robin Bronk has been promoted to chief executive officer. Bronk has been executive director since 1998 for the group.

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