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K Street Files: At Start of Second Term, Lobbyists Get Over Obama’s Cold Shoulder

As K Street parties to mark president’s inauguration, administration policy on lobbyists may be in for slight shift

The Obama administration may not be outwardly keen on lobbyists, but plenty of K Streeters showed up to fete the start of the president’s second term at the Ford Motor Co. inaugural gala on Monday.

Ford’s chief global lobbyist, Ziad Ojakli, worked the bipartisan gala, held at the cavernous Smithsonian Air and Space Museum amid antique planes and retired space capsules.

Among those spotted were members and ex-members from Ford’s home state of Michigan, including retired Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak, who counts the Entertainment Software Association and the Apache Gaming Board among his clients at Venable LLP; Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell and his wife, Debbie, the president of D2 Strategies and chairwoman of the manufacturing initiative of the American Automotive Policy Council; David Hantman, the lone lobbyist for Airbnb and his wife, Jamie Brown Hantman, the president of JBH Group.

Our spies also spotted Mitch Bainwol, the former head of the Recording Industry Association of America who now runs the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Steve Elmendorf of Elmendorf Ryan; and Rebecca Spicer of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, along with her husband, GOP communications operative Sean.

The pages-long guest list munched on Colorado lamb chops, mini crab cakes and risotto and circulated among pizza stations. Perhaps the tasty, hearty fare explained why almost no one took to the dance floor.

Even though President Barack Obama has softened his stance on corporate involvement in politics — his inaugural committee reversed its 2009 ban on accepting corporate donations, for example — K Streeters don’t expect wholesale changes in the way he treats the influence set. However, many believe he will quietly issue more waivers to allow lobbyists to serve in his administration.

Coming Out for Fix the Debt

The business-backed Campaign to Fix the Debt has inked a strategic partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the groups announced Tuesday.

The NGLCC, which represents more than 1.4 million companies, is the primary business advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender entrepreneurs and business owners.

“We’ve partnered with the Campaign to Fix the Debt because we recognize that business cannot grow in a climate of economic uncertainty,” Justin Nelson, the NGLCC co-founder and president, said in a statement. “We don’t have to be partisan, but business leaders do have to be political. Businesses need certainty and predictability to stay on a steady growth trajectory and continue to drive this economy and create jobs.”

Maya MacGuineas, who heads Fix the Debt, said her organization is pleased to stand with the gay and lesbian chamber “to temporarily put aside partisan politics and work together to truly stabilize and reduce the federal debt.”

Tech Firms Want Visa Changes

The National Association of Manufacturers, Microsoft Corp. and other technology firms are urging the new Congress to overhaul the high-skilled worker visa system as part of a comprehensive immigration package.

The coalition, chaired by former New Hampshire Republican Sen. John E. Sununu and Maria Cardona, a former adviser to the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, argues that restrictive visa policies have made it hard for American companies to fill science and technology jobs.

“Manufacturers are dealing with a skills gap that has left 600,000 jobs vacant across the nation,” Jay Timmons, president and CEO of NAM, said in a statement. “By reforming the H-1B visa system, manufacturers can fill existing jobs today while strengthening the U.S. STEM education pipeline to ensure that U.S. college graduates are able to fill those jobs tomorrow.”

The group is endorsing a plan that would allow private companies to pay for short-term increases in worker visas and green cards. Under their proposal, the companies would then fund recruiting and training programs for American science and technology teachers.

The coalition also includes the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Caterpillar Inc., the Council of Chief State School Officers, IBM Corp., Intel Corp. and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

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