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K Street Files: Hurting Gulf Seafood Industry Wants U.S. to Buy In

Gulf Coast officials were in Washington, D.C., this week, pitching the Pentagon on a plan to sell local seafood to the armed forces and other federal programs as a way to help their depressed region.

“No one else is similarly situated as us,” Mobile, Ala., Mayor Samuel Jones told Roll Call on Monday. “No one else came right off [Hurricane] Katrina to the oil spill.”

Jones lobbied lawmakers and U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Monday to direct more federal spending to his municipality. He was joined by other members of the Ready 4 Takeoff Coalition, including Pensacola, Fla., Mayor-elect Ashton Hayward and Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board Executive Director Ewell Smith.

According to its website, the group’s primary goals are to prod the federal government to buy Gulf Coast seafood that consumers may be wary to purchase since an April 20 accident dumped more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The coalition is also pushing a tanker project and “the acceleration of revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas development,” its website states.

The coalition agrees that public opinion poses a big problem for their region’s redevelopment efforts. Images of oil-soaked birds and tar-ball-laden beaches means canceled hotel rooms and scuttled convention plans. They also claim that dramatic media accounts of the Gulf region is wreaking havoc on a local fishing industry that continues to operate at half of its pre-spill capacity.

“The biggest problems we have is perception and getting our people back to work,” Smith said. “People question if the food is safe? It’s the most tested food source in the world.”

Korea FTA Touches Down

Industry backers of a new trade proposal with South Korea are saying the deal could be in place by the spring.

President Barack Obama announced Friday that his administration had reached an agreement to move forward on a bilateral free trade agreement with the strategic Asian ally. The White House and other proponents claim the deal will create thousands of jobs and $11 billion in new revenue for domestic manufacturers. 

After terms of the deal surfaced Friday, the White House released a series of statements from a broad coalition of supporters on K Street and Capitol Hill, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.), House Ways and Means ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.), AT&T Inc., Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Meat Institute, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Motion Picture Association of America, American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and National Pork Producers Council.

Not everyone is apparently happy with the terms of the deal, but many traditional free-trade opponents, such as labor unions, are staying on the sidelines — for now, at least.

On Friday, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), a former steelworker, gave some indication of the behind-the-scenes grousing, issuing a statement arguing that the Korea FTA  “has several fundamental problems.”

Still, trade industry sources said they do not expect a groundswell of opposition to the deal, which must be voted on within 90 days after Obama sends it to Congress.

“Given the parties that have all come together,” an automotive industry source said, “there’s a lot of momentum to get this done before something else gets in its way.”

The Property Ladder

In another sign that Facebook is growing up, the social media network’s Washington office will be moving in the spring from its funky Dupont Circle digs to more spacious quarters downtown.

“I can confirm that we’ve signed the lease on a long-term location that will fit our growing business needs,” said Andrew Noyes, a spokesman in Facebook’s Washington office. “I can also confirm that we hope to move into the space at the end of April.”

Douglas Development also announced Tuesday that Facebook has leased 8,600 square feet in its newly renovated property at 1155 F Street NW. In a news release, the development company said “the building’s refurbished interior, with exposed brick and modern touches, creates an atmosphere that appeals to corporate law firms, cutting edge technology companies, and retailers.”  Other tenants in the building include Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Shook Hardy & Bacon, Novo Nordisk, Servcorp, Intel Corp. and Home Depot Inc. The office space being leased to Facebook can handle 30 to 40 people. Facebook has not said how much it plans to expand its staff.

While Facebook has been growing by leaps and bounds, it still has a smaller Washington presence than other high-tech companies such as Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Drug Lobby Shake-Up

There are more changes at the top of the drug industry trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Christopher Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi-Aventis, has become the new chairman of PhRMA’s board of directors.

He replaces Jeffrey Kindler, who suddenly retired last weekend as CEO of Pfizer Inc., one of the more influential members of PhRMA.

PhRMA has been doing major housecleaning since last spring, when the group’s top executive, former Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin (R), left and was replaced by John Castellani, the former head of Business Roundtable. In a statement, Castellani said that under Viehbacher’s leadership the trade group will “continue to work for sound policies that bring the benefits of medical innovation to patients, reward investment in R&D, help create jobs and promote economic growth in the U.S.”

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