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K Street Files: Aristotle Launches a PAC; Judd Gregg Stays Put

Aristotle International, the maker of political fundraising and management software, has started a political action committee of its own, Federal Election Commission papers show.

On Nov. 17, Aristotle PAC filed organizing papers with the agency, but it has yet to raise any money or contribute to federal candidates. The PAC’s treasurer is David Mason, an Aristotle senior vice president and a former FEC chairman whose questioning of a loan made to the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) led to his ouster from the bipartisan campaign agency.

In an interview Tuesday, Mason said the PAC may eventually raise money from Aristotle employees and contribute to federal candidates but that there are no immediate plans to do so.

“We’re not planning to do a lot of fundraising or contribution activity, although we might at some point in the future,” he said. “It was a very ‘blue sky’ sort of thing.”

Serving His Time

Regardless of what Sen. Judd Gregg decides to do with his post-Congressional career, the New Hampshire Republican is apparently in no rush to begin it. On Tuesday, Gregg spokeswoman Laena Fallon eliminated the possibility that the retiring Member may duck out before the Senate is expected to adjourn later this month.

“Senator Gregg will serve out his full term,” Fallon wrote in a Tuesday e-mail.

An early departure would provide his successor, Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte, with a leg up on seniority with her GOP freshman colleagues and give Gregg a head start on whatever he decides to do next. A former Commerce secretary nominee, Gregg is considered a top recruit by the downtown business community and a short-lister to run the Business Roundtable.

Teeing Up Toys

Nearly 80 golfers turned out for this year’s Turkey Time Golf fundraiser, held Nov. 22 at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Va. The pre-Thanksgiving round, now in its sixth year, collected “a whole slew of gifts” for the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots Foundation, says event co-host Behrends Foster, a partner at the new firm Blue Stone Strategies.

Other organizers and hosts of the golf event include Joe Trauger of the National Association of Manufacturers, Capitol Hill Strategies lobbyist A.J. Wojciak, 3M Co.’s Megan Carr, Anne Fabry of Brown Rudnick, Andrew Dodson of the Bockorny Group and Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America’s John Prible.

Talking Tea Party in Russia

It’s been a busy autumn for former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), the Clark & Weinstock managing partner who has embarked on a global speaking tour of sorts in recent weeks. As part of an event sponsored by the Rand Corp., Weber traveled to Moscow ahead of the Nov. 2 midterm elections to discuss American politics with Russian and European business leaders.

The former six-term Member said one-time Warsaw Pact adversaries were most interested in discussing the pending Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that awaits ratification by Members during the lame-duck session.

“There’s an amazing array of interests that want to figure what’s going on in the new Congress,” Weber told Roll Call in a recent interview. “The things we’re talking about over there are not necessarily the things we’re talking about here.”

Weber has also spoken recently with Ernst & Young corporate directors in New York about the possible ramifications of the elections. And he was scheduled to address a roomful of foreign diplomats about the effects of the Republican midterm victories.

Weber said the tea party movement has been the primary reason that his election-season dance card is much more full than in years past.

“The tea party phenomenon is fascinating to people who are not part of [politics] both in our country and abroad. … There’s a lot more interest in what’s actually happening in our political system right now,” Weber said. “What I’ve told people who are concerned about this is that the Republicans are bringing in a very experienced team.”

Loco Del Coco

With the Food and Drug Administration recently forcing a change to its controversial recipe, Phusion Projects’ nascent Capital Hill campaign faces an uncertain future just four months after the company hired its first lobbyist.

On Nov. 16, the Chicago-based brewer bowed to pressure from regulators and announced it was removing stimulants from Four Loko, its popular combination of malt liquor and caffeine that achieved a cult-like status on college campuses nationwide before being blamed in numerous hospitalizations and deaths.

In August, Senate records show the company hired the Smith-Free Group to lobby on “issues related to beverage marketing.” By mid-October, lobbying records show the firm had quickly turned to addressing FDA concerns about the possibly lethal concoction that had led state officials to ban it outright in New York and elsewhere. During the third quarter of this year, the company disclosed spending $50,000 overall on federal lobbying.

On Tuesday, a company official declined to say how it will approach Capitol Hill in the coming months.

“It’s our policy not to discuss our strategies publicly or any external consultants who may or may not be helping us, including lawyers, lobbyists, and PR consultants,” a company spokesman wrote in an e-mail. “As we stated on November 16, we have stopped the production and shipment of all our products containing these ingredients. We will continue to work closely and cooperatively with national and state regulators.”

K Street Moves

• Darden Restaurants has ordered up a new lobbyist: T.J. Birkel has joined the company as manager of federal government relations based in Washington, D.C. In the newly created position, Birkel will manage Darden’s efforts to build and maintain relationships with Members of Congress, Congressional staff and executive branch personnel.

The former legislative assistant and speechwriter to Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) reports to Chip Kunde, Darden’s vice president of government relations.

“T.J. brings valuable policy and political experience to our team,” Kunde said in a statement. “He will give key decision makers greater access to our company, serving as an advocate for Darden and continuing to build and foster relationships in Washington, D.C.”

Darden’s brands include Red Lobster, Olive Garden and the Capital Grille.

• The American Nurses Association has brought on April Canter as its associate director of government affairs. A former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staffer, she was also a director at Prime Advocacy and manager of advocacy and government relations for the GRAMMY Awards.

Kate Ackley and Steve Peoples contributed to this report.

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