Lobby League '29 Automobiles

For auto lobbyists, the legislative year looks more like an obstacle course than a straight track.

Congress is set to reauthorize the law that sets safety standards, is likely to look anew at gas-mileage minimums, and is ready to try again to pass an energy bill that may include tax breaks for hybrid and other so-called advanced-technology vehicles. What’s more, lawmakers are also ready to begin the debate on rewriting the Clean Air Act. While that discussion primarily affects utilities, the discussion could easily expand to include cars and trucks, and throw a wrench in business plans from Detroit to Tokyo

General Motors: Kenneth Cole

Cole carries with him the credibility of one of America’s most iconic companies when he visits congressional offices. But it’s his knowledge of the industry, acquired over 25 years of lobbying on its behalf, that sets him apart, sources say. Cole is credited with knowing the business inside and out, from supplier to manufacturer. He’s an “old hand” at lobbying on behalf of the auto industry, one source said.

Ford Motor Co.: Ziad Ojakli, Dan Brouillette

Along with other major automakers, Ford strutted its stuff in Detroit two weeks ago, pulling back the curtain on its redesigned Mustangs, Fusions and GTs. A year ago, the company caused oooohs and aahhhs among the D.C. happy-hour set with a reshaped lobbying shop of all-star GOP talent, headed by former White House lobbyist to the Senate Ojakli and ex-House Energy and Commerce Chief of Staff Brouillette. “Both know the ins and outs of Capitol Hill as well as the key personalities from their previous stints up here,” one House GOP aide said.

United Auto Workers: Alan Reuther

Reuther is the legislative director of the UAW, the longtime power in the labor movement. He has worked at the union since graduating from the University of Michigan law school in 1977 and has worked in Washington since 1982. “No person in town is any more articulate on issues affecting the auto industry,” one colleague said.

Toyota: Jo Cooper

Cooper helped turn the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers from the lobbying equivalent of a puttering Yugo to a semi-truck-size SUV. During her tenure, the group’s budget nearly tripled to more than $30 million. She resigned as head of the group when board members decided they needed a bigger name at the top. It didn’t take Cooper long to find work. She landed at Toyota a few weeks after her departure from the Alliance a year ago, and has continued to help shape auto policy.

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers: Mike Stanton

As vice president of government affairs for the Alliance, Stanton lobbies Congress on behalf of nine automakers. Those companies don’t agree on all issues, but the unassuming Stanton is regarded nevertheless as one of the industry’s most effective advocates, according to several sources. He is “extremely well-known” on the Hill, said one. He’s been around the block a “number of times” and knows the industry from top to bottom, said another. A “walking encyclopedia” on a host of industry issues, said a third.

Daimler-Chrysler: Robert Liberatore, Dennis Fitzgibbons

Daimler-Chrysler maintains one of the bigger lobbying shops among automakers in town, despite the recent departure of Vice President for Government Affairs Timothy McBride, who left to take over lobbying for embattled Freddie Mac. Both Liberatore and Fitzgibbons do “a lot of work” on behalf of the industry, one source said. Fitzgibbons is a former staff director to perhaps the most knowledgeable auto advocate on the Hill, House Energy and Commerce ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.).

The Duberstein Group: Henry Gandy

Gandy has long aided GM’s efforts on the Hill. He specializes in issues related to energy and the environment, two topics near and dear to auto lovers’ hearts.

This is The Hill’s weekly listing of the top lobbyists in a specific industry — in this case, automobiles — based on conversations with the major players on K Street, congressional staffers and other Washington insiders