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Major League Baseball won a well-deserved reputation for being a cheapskate during the Southeast ballpark debate. Every concession wrested from the millionaire’s club that is MLB was won through excruciating brinkmanship. In one notable penny-pinching episode, baseball even tried to cut the bonus it pledged to pay the city for the Nationals’ attendance tallies in the 2005 season. And MLB got a great return on its lobbying investment, as well. It paid about $62,000 to former D.C. Councilmember John Ray for assistance in deconstructing the Byzantine intricacies of the District’s political culture. In the end, MLB got a nearly free stadium valued at $611 million.
Ray competes against a gaggle of other influence peddlers who’ll brag of similar outcomes. Although the John A. Wilson Building is no Capitol Hill when it comes to big-money hucksters, the city’s lobbying stable has a few well-compensated thoroughbreds ready and able to shill the company line. As this pivotal election season approaches, they’re all trying to ingratiate themselves to the candidates who’ll be raising their right hands in early January 2007. A breakdown of the top dogs and their prospects: —James Jones
Figures based on Jan. 31, 2006, lobbyist report filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance for 2005.
David Carmen, Carmen Group Inc.
Campaign Contributions Since 2004 election cycle: Carmen, $6,500; Carmen Group Inc., $7,500
Top Clients: Profunds Advisors, $89,548Georgetown University, $72,210Washington Regional Airports Authority, $68,282
Signature Wilson Building Ally: Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose. She shares Carmen’s passion for building a new National Children’s Museum in D.C.
Worth it? Carmen Group makes big dough representing just a few powerhouse clients. But David Carmen’s real clout comes from his work for the National Children’s Museum. He handles that account on a pro-bono basis. What politician can say no to the kids?
Kerry Pearson, Kerry Pearson LLC
Campaign Contributions Since 2004 Election Cycle: Pearson, $4,900; Kerry Pearson LLC, $6,100
Top Clients: ACS State and Local Solutions, $130,000 ACS State Healthcare, $50,000 Bannum Place of Clearwater Florida (halfway-house builder), $65,000Parkeon (sells machines that process payments for on-street parking), $27,574
Signature Wilson Building Ally: Chairman Linda Cropp. Pearson twice chaired Cropp’s campaign for the top council seat. They are tight professionally and personally.
Worth it? A lot of politicians owe Pearson. He has organized fundraisers for big shots and holds the keys to a stash of business community dollars. No door is closed to him. Pearson client ACS has nearly $10 million in city contracts with the Departments of Human Services and Health. Don’t expect much to change there.
John Ray, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
Campaign Contributions Since 2004 Election Cycle: Ray, $6,500; Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, $1,000
Top Clients:Office of the Commissioner, Major League Baseball, $62,072D.C. Chartered Health, $15,492Greater Southeast Community Hospital, $7,548 Mercer Human Resource Consulting, $6,336
Signature Wilson Building Ally: Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange. Ray and his wife gave $25,000 to Orange during the exploratory phase of his mayoral campaign. Orange is now pushing a Ray-backed development project at the old D.C. Farmers’ Market.
Worth It? Ray is a barely tolerated pest in plenty of council offices, but the big win with baseball gives him a powerful new résumé item. Anything that helps push the memories of Ray’s singular devotion to the sketchy 2004 slots initiative into the background will boost his stock. Ray’s client D.C. Chartered Health has a $13 million contract to run the D.C. Healthcare Alliance. Mercer has a $927,000 Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs consulting contract.
David Wilmot, David Wilmot and Associates Inc.
Campaign Contributions Since 2004 Election Cycle: Wilmot, $2,900; Wilmot and Associates, $5,250
Top Clients: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, $90,000 D.C. Heath Maintenance Organization, $37,500Fannie Mae, $25,002Pfizer, $48,390Anheuser-Busch, $21,000Hotel Association of Washington, $21,000Cingular Wireless, $18,000
Signature Wilson Building Ally: Ward 8 Councilmember Marion S. Barry. Wilmot was the No. 2 attorney at the defense table when Barry was recently sentenced for not filing taxes for five years.
Worth It? Wilmot had a busy year on behalf of his drug-maker clients, who were engaged in a death struggle with At-Large Councilmember David Catania over legislation that could have forced the companies to lower prices. Wilmot lost, but he warned everyone that the city would end up spending tons of money and lose in court. So far he’s been proven right, but the city still appealed the court decision that voided the bill. Wilmot also helped to ensure that a proposed hotel tax for school construction was dead on arrival.
Max Brown, Group 360
Campaign Contributions Since 2004 election Cycle: Brown, $3,000; Group 360, $8,650
Top Clients: Medstar Health, $30,000ACS State and Local Solutions, $30,000MCI/Verizon, $24,000Bearing Point, $24,000The Forge Company, $37,750PEPCO, $18,000Greater Washington Board of Trade, $15,000
Signature Wilson Building Ally: Mayor Anthony A. Williams. Brown was never that popular among nervous city employees who feared for their jobs when he served as Williams’ first general counsel. The mayor always stuck by him and still does.
Worth it? Brown was among the first top Williams staffers to parlay his executive suite connections into cash. His client ACS has bought double coverage with Brown and Kerry Pearson. Brown still has the mayor’s pals in his corner.
Jon Bouker and Craig Engle,Arent Fox
2005 Earnings: $107,100
Campaign Contributions Since 2004 Election Cycle: Bouker and Engle, $1,500; Arent Fox, $3,720
Top Clients: Deutsche Bank, $64,600AEG, $35,000 (sports/entertainment)Corcoran Gallery of Art, $17,100D.C. United, $10,000
Signature Ally: Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. For years, Bouker and Norton were almost always mentioned in the same breath. He still carries his reputation as her most effective staffer.
Worth It? The Bouker-Engle one-two punch delivers. Bouker is former legislative director for Norton. Engle is big-time Republican operative. Two clients, D.C. United and AEG, faced a huge obstacle to their proposed soccer complex in Ward 8 when Barry publicly opposed the stadium. Barry flip-flopped after some intense lobbying and now supports the deal. That should earn Arent Fox some new contracts for 2006.
Renee McPhatter, American Cancer Society
Campaign Contributions Since 2004 Election Cycle: McPhatter, $500; American Cancer Society, $0
Top Client: American Cancer Society, $67,441 (Salary)Note: ACS spent $466,770 for two weeks of radio ads, three mailings, and a wide range of print ads.
Signature Wilson Building Ally: Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson. McPhatter was Patterson’s Judiciary Committee clerk. Now she’s a volunteer for her old boss’s campaign for council chair.
Worth It? In the end, taking the case to the people trumped years of intense lobbying and tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by the restaurant industry and its pals. The council passed the smoking ban and the mayor signed it into law after a two-and-a-half-year stalemate.
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