Daily Archives: August 12, 2008

CR, County Hire a DC Cloutslinger

Cedar Rapids and Linn County have hired the same high-powered lobbying firm to direct our push for federal disaster aid, according to the Gazette’s intrepid Adam Belz:

The city of Cedar Rapids and Linn County are each hiring the same national law firm to lobby Congress for federal flood recovery money.

The Linn Board of Supervisors expects to vote later this week on a $108,000 contract for one year with Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, a firm with an office on K Street in Washington D.C.

“We would be doing this in conjunction with the city,” Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston said.

Cedar Rapids hired Sonnenschein in July, and is paying the firm $10,000 per month for no longer than a year.

Our local leaders didn’t pick just anybody to carry our DC water.

Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal ranked 13th on the Legal Times’ “Influence 50” list in March, which ranks the Capitol’s top lobby shops by gross revenue in 2007. The firm made $22.8 million and employs 20 lobbyists, according to the article.

S, N & R Chairman Elliott Portnoy ranked 18th on Washingtonian magazine’s list of the top 50 “Hired Guns.” The magazine says he specialized in asbestos legislation. Imagine what he could do for mold.

But CR and LC won’t be among the legal giant’s biggest name clients. For instance, the firm is representing Dan Rather in his lawsuit against CBS. And it counts best selling legal thriller novelist Scott Turow  among its partners. Maybe his next novel will be “Epic Surge.”



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Catch Up time

Having been gone for a couple weeks, I’m just now catching up on some of the stories that made headlines in my absence. I feel the need to weigh in, quickly, before they get too stale.

$400,000 in bonuses for salaried city workers — I wholeheartedly agree that city employees worked long and hard before, during and after the disaster. So I’m not going to argue that they don’t deserve the bonuses awarded by the City Council.

But I do take issue with the timing. If we sat down today and made a top 20 list of ways we could spend $400,000 in this town, city employee bonuses would not make that list. It’s just not a priority with so many huge, costly issues to address.

If, by some miracle, there’s still money left over after other recovery needs are met, then, fine, hand out bonuses. Otherwise, public servants, who served and continue to serve the public well, will just have to live without extra pay. A lot of people in this town are being asked to sacrifice, bite the bullet and be patient. That should also apply to city workers.

At the very least, I hope the city makes a clear public accounting of who gets bonuses, including an explanation of why they deserve extra pay.



Trading Jackson for Benjamins — I’ve never jumped on the bash-Michael-Gartner bandwagon. I think he’s a smart, articulate guy who doesn’t shy away from controversy. But his suggestion that the University of Iowa explore selling Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” to help pay for flood recovery doesn’t strike me as one of his better ideas.

I understand and sympathize with the argument that the university shouldn’t be soaking taxpayers for recovery funds when it’s sitting on a $150 million painting. But I still think a sale would be a bad idea.

For one thing, it’s our painting, and I’d hate to see it passed at auction from public to private hands. The more high-profile art remains in public ownership, the more accessible it will be to average folks who don’t do much bidding at art auctions. And selling something that came to the university as a gift might prompt future givers to think twice.

Basically, I’d like to think art has a value to us beyond its appraisal price. Maybe that makes me some espresso-slurping, clove-smoking, snob. So be it.

Trailergate — I was happy to read news that FEMA will give preference to local manufactured home companies to boost its supply of trailers. It only took several weeks of stumbling and bumbling, potentially a record for the federal government.

I hope this means, as the story says, that people waiting for temporary housing will now get it faster.

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