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Pfizer, Halliburton Grab Democrats as Hearings Loom
Of course... just before the hearings on waste & abuse... Let the softball questions begin
Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Pharmaceutical companies and Iraq war contractors, both heavy Republican contributors, are among the companies scrambling to hire lobbyists with Democratic ties as they prepare for congressional investigative hearings next week.
Pfizer Inc., the world's biggest drugmaker, has hired the Glover Park Group, whose partners include Joe Lockhart, a former spokesman for President Bill Clinton, and Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Roche Holding AG picked as its lobbyist William Clyburn, cousin of the House's third-ranking Democrat, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
The increased hiring coincides with the Democratic congressional sweep that has sent shudders through corporate boardrooms.
``No general counsel or CEO wants to have to explain to his board why the company's name is appearing on the front page of a news article in a scandal,'' said Nick Allard, a partner in the law and lobbying firm of Patton Boggs LLP, which just landed military contractor Halliburton Co. as a client. ``Firms and industry groups that have not yet been represented are talking to firms all over town.''
Representative Henry Waxman, 67, the California Democrat who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, plans to hold hearings beginning Feb. 6 on Iraq contractors. The committee has asked executives from Halliburton to testify.
``We're the main committee in the House of Representatives to look at matters that deserve scrutiny,'' Waxman said in an interview today. ``Nothing deserves scrutiny more than whether taxpayers' dollars are being used appropriately.''
The Cheney Connection
Halliburton, a Houston-based oilfield services company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, gave 92 percent of its political-action committee contributions to Republicans for the 2006 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington research group.
The company's new firm, Patton Boggs, counts Democratic lobbyist Thomas Boggs among its name partners. KBR Inc., a Halliburton unit, hired the law and lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, whose partners include Democratic former House Speaker Thomas Foley.
``Halliburton retains firms with deep experience in the industry, on Capitol Hill and in the administration to help us navigate the policy arena,'' Melissa Norcross, a spokeswoman for Halliburton and KBR, said in an e-mailed comment.
Lobbyists with Washington experience are considered particularly valuable when chief executive officers face nationally televised hearings. Waxman presided over one of the most famous on April 14, 1994, when seven tobacco- industry CEOs testified that they didn't add nicotine to their cigarettes.
Public hearings raise the stakes for corporations, said Mark Paoletta, a lawyer who helped run investigations for the House Energy and Commerce Committee when Republicans were in control. ``The company has a much larger risk with respect to its reputation'' than in civil litigation that can be resolved away from the public glare, he said.
Some Republican lobbyists are also benefiting from the increased congressional attention. Paoletta and another Energy and Commerce lawyer, Andrew Snowdon, just joined the Washington office of lobbying and law firm *****tein Shapiro LLP.
Mark Corallo and Barbara Comstock, two former Justice Department officials who have formed their own lobbying firm in Alexandria, Virginia, are talking to representatives of oil and drug companies. One of their current clients, Blackwater USA of Moyock, North Carolina, is scheduled to testify next week before Waxman's committee, Corallo said. The panel is probing possible waste and fraud in Iraq war contracts.
``When we realized that the political winds were blowing the other way, we understood there would be a market,'' said Corallo. Industries that ``escaped oversight'' for more than a decade ``are going to find themselves in the congressional crosshairs,'' he said.
The pharmaceutical industry, which the Center for Responsive Politics says gave 68 percent of its 2006 campaign gifts to Republicans, may be the biggest target for investigators. The House voted Jan. 12 to require the Medicare program, which provides health care for the elderly and disabled, to negotiate prices with drug companies; five congressional committees plan hearings into industry practices, including the generic-drug approval process and drug safety.
Number of Assignments
Paul Fitzhenry, a spokesman for New York-based Pfizer, and Glover Park partner Joel Johnson, a former Clinton administration and Senate Democratic staff member, said the group has handled a number of assignments for the drugmaker for about two years.
This year marks the first time Glover Park has registered as the company's lobbyists, congressional filings show. Johnson said the firm registered `` when it became evident that the inside role was to require outside contacts'' on legislative matters. Lockhart and Wolfson, the Glover Park partners, aren't listed on congressional forms as the firm's lobbyists for Pfizer.
William Clyburn didn't return phone calls seeking comment. Roche, based in Basel, Switzerland, had no immediate comment when asked about the investigations.
Thousand Oaks, California-based Amgen Inc., the world's largest biotechnology company, hired two firms in the last two months, congressional filings show. ``It certainly is a different political landscape,'' Amgen spokeswoman Kelley Davenport said.
Amgen's new lobbyists include the Duberstein Group, led by Kenneth Duberstein, former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, and Michael Berman, a veteran Democratic political operative. The company also hired Lent, Scrivner & Roth LLC, whose partners include former Republican Representative Norman Lent of New York and Alan Roth, staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee when it was previously under Democratic control.
Another Washington law firm, Venable LLP, brought in Raymond Shepherd III, a Republican who is former chief counsel to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee, to run its new congressional-investigation group. Birch Bayh, a former Democratic senator from Indiana, is a partner at the firm.
Venable's new clients include London-based drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC, maker of Crestor, the fastest-growing cholesterol medicine.
``In the era of instant news, even the threat of a congressional investigation can impact a company's brand, reputation, and, just as importantly, its bottom line,'' said Gloria Dittus, head of Dittus Communications, a Washington-based public-affairs firm.