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K Street Files: Two Jobs Better Than One for Nelson

Former Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., is joining the public affairs firm Agenda, the outfit announced Tuesday. The firm is also bringing on Ed Schafer, a former secretary of Agriculture and North Dakota governor. Both will be senior advisers.

In addition, Nelson has been named CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents top insurance regulators in U.S. states and territories. Before coming to Congress, Nelson ran an insurance company, headed a national association of insurance regulators and directed his state’s insurance department.

With the two high-profile additions of Nelson and Schafer, Agenda said it also is forming a new advisory board, which the duo will head.

The board, the firm said in a statement, will “support its public affairs platform and provide clients with high-level policy and political guidance.”

“We are excited and privileged to have Senator Nelson and Governor Schafer join our team,” Agenda partner Craig Pattee said in the press release. “These guys reflect our business strategy. They know how to work across the aisle to get things done and understand the nexus between modern grassroots advocacy, governors and states and the federal government.”

Nelson added that “this last election proved that to get things done in Washington, you have to be able to build coalitions. That’s what this business is all about.”

Signaling that Agenda plans to step up its footprint, the firm said it will announce additional advisers in the coming months.

Addressing Nelson’s appointment to the insurance trade group, Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association, said in a statement that “Sen. Nelson brings a high-level of knowledge, experience and leadership that will benefit the NAIC and the insurance marketplace.”

She added: “He has a firsthand understanding of the important role that insurers play in the economy given his prior experience as a governor, insurance company CEO, and previously as Director of the Nebraska Department of Insurance. … AIA looks forward to working with the Senator and the NAIC on state, national and international regulatory issues that aim to promote a vibrant and healthy property-casualty insurance marketplace while preserving safety and soundness.”

In the Senate, Nelson was at the center of the debate over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, which created a system for states to build insurance markets where uninsured people can buy coverage beginning later this year.

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