Last-shot efforts target 'lame-duck' Congress

WASHINGTON: Various public affairs campaigns launched this week at the start of the final, "lame-duck" session of the 109th Congress, as trade associations and other special interests take one last chance to interact with the current body before the Democratic-controlled Congress takes over in January.

WASHINGTON: Various public affairs campaigns launched this week at the start of the final, "lame-duck" session of the 109th Congress, as trade associations and other special interests take one last chance to interact with the current body before the Democratic-controlled Congress takes over in January.

The American Gas Association, for instance, with assistance in media outreach from Dittus Communications, ran radios ads, contacted media, and testified at public hearings in Atlantic City, NJ, and Norfolk, VA, in favor of legislation that would open the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for natural gas exploration, arguing it could eventually help stabilize home heating prices.

"It's that last push before Congress adjourns," said Daphne Magnuson, AGA's director of PR. "There are only a few really high-priority items that they can act upon, and we hope that OCS will be one of them."

But some of the efforts are more about playing defense than scoring points. With one of the more contentious issues, electronic surveillance, groups like Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances launched outreach to dissuade Congress from supporting Bush administration-favored legislation before the Democrats, who are likely to be less supportive of the legislation, assume control.

The Business Roundtable, meanwhile, ran print ads, organized a speech by its president at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and contacted select DC media in its push for approval of several pieces of legislation, including permanent normal trade relations for Vietnam, health IT legislation, and an R&D tax credit that several other groups also supported.

Jennifer Handt, the Business Roundtable's deputy director of communications, stressed the generally bipartisan support of her group's favorite legislation, regardless of which party controls the Congress. Handt said that media outreach on the issue will continue, and already includes such key hits as The Washington Post and CNBC.

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