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A Washington Bouquet: Hire A Lawmaker's Kid

Stiffer rules are making it harder to direct cash to a congressman. But you can still put his family on the payroll.

June 22, 2003|Chuck Neubauer, Judy Pasternak and Richard T. Cooper | Times Staff Writers

Apparently, the reverse is also true. Sen. Hatch recently hired a new aide with a telecommunications background. Press secretary Adam Elggren said the senator intends to get more involved in the field.

Two telecom firms, Verizon and Qwest, provided nearly 30% of the federal lobbying income that Walker, Martin & Hatch reported last year.


Chet Lott

Pizza Franchise Owner Breaking Into the Game

Chester Trent Lott Jr., who is 35 and goes by Chet, is another Senate son with an affinity for subjects his father, Chester Trent Lott Sr., works on.

He has been a part-time lobbyist for less than two years and still lives in Lexington, Ky., where he owns several Domino's pizza franchises and rides for the company's polo team. For nearly 10 years, his father was a director of RPM Pizza of Gulfport, Miss., the largest Domino's franchise holder in North America.

As Chet Lott has moved into Washington lobbying, he has developed a multitude of new business relationships. He has a firm called Lott & Associates, plus a partnership with Larry Hopkins, a former congressman from Kentucky. Recently, he became affiliated with the lobbying firm headed by former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), a friend of his father.

Chet Lott declined to be interviewed for this article, and Trent Lott's office did not return phone calls. But an employee at Livingston's firm, who asked that his name not be disclosed, said the two Lotts have a written agreement not to talk to each other about legislation.

Hopkins said he first met the younger Lott when the senator's family was growing up in the Washington area and renewed the acquaintance after Chet moved to Lexington. "Chet -- he was raised in Washington ... he knows his way around," Hopkins said.

One of Lott & Hopkins' biggest accounts is BellSouth. Sen. Lott, while no longer majority leader, remains a senior member of the Senate commerce committee and its communications subcommittee.

In 1996, Lott played a key role in Senate passage of the landmark telecommunications act that included the provision allowing Baby Bells to sell long-distance phone service.

Lott & Hopkins reported that BellSouth paid the firm $160,000 during an 18-month period ending last year. Hopkins described their services as "nothing heavy." A BellSouth spokesman said, "They keep in touch with what is going on in Kentucky and with the delegation. They keep tabs on political developments."

Shipbuilding is Mississippi's largest industry, and Lott, a senior member of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the maritime industry, has been a faithful supporter of domestic shipyards.

Recently, Louisiana-based Edison Chouest Offshore needed help as it competed for contracts to build three oil tankers for ExxonMobil. For competitive reasons, it wanted the option of supplying the vessels from overseas shipyards, but a provision of federal law stood in the way.

In November, Lott inserted a last-minute provision in the port-security bill that made it possible for Edison Chouest to sidestep the legal barrier. The waiver was first disclosed by Congressional Quarterly Daily.

The company declined to comment. But federal records show Edison Chouest added a new lobbyist last year: Chet Lott, who collected $110,000 in fees.


Ben Stevens

Former Boat Captain Takes Alaska by Storm

For Alaska's Ted Stevens, this year's war in Iraq provided an opportunity to help out Alaska's leading employer -- one of his oldest causes and, more recently, a leading source of clients for his son.

In April, as U.S. troops fought their way into Baghdad, President Bush asked for $79 billion in emergency funds, and most members of Congress put aside politics-as-usual to rush the appropriations bill through.

Nevertheless, a handful of senators inserted pork-barrel spending items, and Stevens did another favor for an old friend.

Alaska's fishing industry had been trying in vain to persuade the Agriculture Department to classify the state's wild-caught salmon as "organic." With that designation, the industry hoped to boost sales and raise prices.

Sen. Stevens inserted a rider into the defense bill directing Agriculture to develop regulations allowing wild salmon and other seafood to be labeled organic.

With a war on, such actions infuriated some colleagues.

"Why can't we, for once, bring forward a bill -- especially when we are at war, especially when we have young men and women fighting and dying -- that is free of these unnecessary provisions?" Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) demanded. "Can't we do that just once?"

Most of the "pork" was deleted, but not the salmon proviso, which passed. It was in addition to other provisions Stevens put into this year's federal budget: $45 million in new subsidies for Alaska's fisheries and a requirement that the U.S. armed forces buy only American fish.

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