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LOBBYING: K Street for October 26, 2002

Keeping the Soft Money Flowing

With time running out before the national party committees are barred from accepting soft money, the Democratic National Committee hosted a meeting of some 20 party donors who were told about a new group that can legally accept soft money after Election Day. Party stars at the recent get-together included DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe; former top Clinton aide Harold Ickes, who is now a DNC consultant; and Joe Carmichael, who runs the new group, the Democratic State Party Organization. Such big party donors as trial lawyer Stan Chesley, longtime patron Elizabeth Bagley, and several K Street fundraisers learned that the DSPO will be a key vehicle for receiving soft dollars after the restrictions take effect on November 6. The DSPO was set up to help advise and train state parties to register and turn out voters. Under new campaign finance rules, it would also be among several organizations working to ensure that tens of millions in soft dollars that have gone to the DNC and the Democratic congressional campaign committees don't disappear. The meeting "was an opportunity for the state parties to make their pitch, which is what I did," says Carmichael. -Peter H. Stone

You've Got to Have Connections

Colleges and universities should think twice about the money they spend on lobbyists to try to win funding from Washington. That's according to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto, which says institutions of higher learning don't cash in unless a lawmaker from their state sits on either the House or Senate appropriations committee. According to MIT economist John de Figueiredo and Toronto professor Brian Silverman, universities without appropriations committee representation spent an average of $125,481 on lobbying from 1997 to 1999, but won only $76,543 in so-called federal earmarks. Appropriations bills often include money earmarked for specific projects and not vetted by an agency, as is most federal spending on higher education. Stewart Van Scoyoc, a successful university lobbyist, says the main point about appropriations committee connections is obvious but numerous other factors also contribute to success.

The findings run counter to the thinking of most universities, which have dramatically increased their spending on lobbying in recent years. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 294 academic institutions in the United States lobbied Congress in 2001, up from 191 in 1998. The colleges and universities also nearly doubled their spending during those years to $42 million per year. For universities with representation on appropriations committees, it would be smart to keep up their lobbying efforts, according to the study. Universities with representation on the Senate panel took in nearly $12 in earmarked funding for every $1 they spent on lobbying. Schools with representatives on both the House and Senate committees enjoyed a windfall of more than $46 in funding for every dollar spent on lobbying. -Shawn Zeller

Accounting Reforms Become a Target

Now that the ink has been dry on the accounting-reform bill for a few months and corporate-accounting scandals no longer dominate the headlines, lobbying shops are lining up clients to try to undo portions of the measure, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The law firm of Butera & Andrews has announced plans to set up the Reciprocity in International Accounting Coalition, hoping to win some exemptions from the new law for foreign and international companies. Among the coalition's likely goals, said firm principal James Butera, is to exempt CEOs of foreign companies from requirements that they certify the accuracy of company financial statements and that they face criminal penalties for knowingly certifying inaccurate or misleading ones. The group hopes to change the law to allow foreign auditors of companies traded on U.S. exchanges to operate under their home countries' standards rather than follow U.S. standard setters, such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the new accounting oversight board created by the law. Butera said there are "three or four" Canadian and European government and business members in the coalition, including trade associations. -Julie Kosterlitz

Engineers Lobby for More Fed Work

The American Council of Engineering Companies is running a grassroots campaign against a measure that would bar government agencies from outsourcing more work to private firms. The 6,000-member group has asked executives at its member companies to write to their senators urging opposition to an amendment sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee. Dorgan's proposal would stop federal agencies from implementing a Bush administration plan to increase government outsourcing to the private sector. The American Federation of Government Employees, the Federal Managers Association, and the National Treasury Employees Union have opposed the move, and the House has already passed legislation that would block agencies from moving ahead with the Bush plan. Dorgan's amendment, which would accomplish the same thing, has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. "Much of the work that the federal government does in engineering and design can be readily performed by the private sector," said Steve Hall, the ACEC's director of government affairs. Hall said the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Park Service employ in-house engineers who "directly compete with our member firms." The Treasury-Postal bill is one of 10 spending bills the Senate has not yet passed. Congress approved a continuing resolution to maintain government spending at current levels through November 22. -Shawn Zeller

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