Partisan Detente at Bryce Harlow Dinner

Posted April 17, 2013 at 3:46pm

The scene at the annual Bryce Harlow Foundation awards dinner is always a little otherworldly — by Washington standards. It’s a place where lawmakers laud lobbyists and Republican politicians unabashedly fete Democrats.

At the April 16 dinner in the heart of K Street, Sen. Jerry Moran, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, piled on the praise for Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., whom the Kansan pointed out is up for re-election next year. As NRSC chairman, Moran said, one of his responsibilities is to make sure Warner “is replaced by a Republican.”

No matter. He introduced Warner, who received the lobbying group’s 2013 Bryce Harlow award, which recognizes lawmakers who promote business and economic interests.

“I like Mark Warner because he’s focused on growing the economy,” Moran told the crowd of about 500 lobbyists as they munched on salmon and beef and butter molds in the shape of the U.S. Capitol. “He has earned the respect of his colleagues. … Even as NRSC chair, I’m here to praise him.”

Longtime lobbyist Charlie Black, who was an adviser to the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won the group’s 2013 Business-Government Relations award. McCain praised and roasted Black, whom he said he has talked with at least once a week for the past 31 years.

“Because of Charlie, mothers in Arizona don’t tell their children they can grow up to be president,” McCain quipped, adding that Black may be to blame for his 2008 loss. “I probably would’ve won if it hadn’t been for Charlie’s advice and counsel,” the senator ribbed. But in the end, McCain called Black a “true professional and a great patriot.”

Black, who is chairman of Prime Policy Group, told his K Street colleagues not to believe the rumors that McCain is difficult to lobby. “He’s only thrown out two of my clients and me once,” he joked. At least we think he was joking.

As for the Moran-Warner alliance, the Virginian acknowledged that it’s an unusual partnership. The pair, he noted, attended South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, together this year “looking like hipsters in Austin — it was a sight,” Warner said.

Other big names who attended the lobbyist prom included former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and K Streeters Juanita Duggan of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck; the American Insurance Association’s chief, Leigh Ann Pusey; former Rep. Ken Bentsen, D-Texas, acting head of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association; Connie Tipton, who runs the International Dairy Foods Association; and others.

The foundation and the awards, presented at the Capital Hilton hotel, are named for the late Bryce Harlow, a former lobbyist and former government official.