Sunday, February 4, 2007

Halliburton and Pfizer Donkey Up

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.

If Pfizer and Halliburton play their cards right (0kay--left), I predict a sweeping perceptual shift on the part of Democrats toward these companies. Depends on how much they're willing to shell out. Now that think about it, Shell Oil needs a few new lobbyists, too.

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