Lobbyists at the bat

Major League Baseball and its players’ union have been working frantically over the past 10 days to prepare for a congressional hearing tomorrow on steroid use.

“I’ve been working literally around the clock, getting ready for this hearing,” said Kevin McGuiness, a lobbyist for the Major League Baseball Players Association, the union. “I came home one night and my wife, said, ‘what are you doing [at work]?’ I told her to read George Will’s column.”

The league and the union have been working together to fashion a legal strategy for tomorrow’s hearing as well as a lobbying strategy on the Hill.
Lucy Calautti, who represents league Commissioner Bud Selig, is leading baseball’s effort on the Hill.

“Our strategy has been to explain to members of the committee that we want to cooperate, the commissioner is coming and that Congress wanted us to enforce a tougher testing policy on steroids, and it is already starting,” said Calautti, whom the league paid $300,000 over a six-month period in 2004.

Gregg Hartley and former Rep. Marty Russo (D-Ill.) at Cassidy & Associates also are working with Calautti. Cassidy earns a $100,000 fee, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed with the Senate.

Calautti said: “It’s too bad that this committee has jumped the gun instead of letting this testing program have time to work,” she said.

Besides its in-house lawyers and McGuiness, the players union has turned to Jonathan Yarowsky at Patton Boggs, Thurgood Marshall Jr., at the Harbour Group, Joel Johnson at the Glover Park Group and Karl Thorsen at the American Continental Group.  

Donald Fehr, the union’s executive director, also is relying on his brother, Steven, an attorney in Kansas City, Mo.

The union’s lobbyists are paid $10,000-$20,000 for every six months’ work. The biggest complaint from the lobbyists involved has been the compressed time frame to prepare for tomorrow’s hearing, which has raised dozens of issues, including whether the committee has jurisdiction, the scope of questioning, setting up meetings with committee members and aides and explaining to the players how the process works, the rules and the consequences of testifying or not testifying.

The union’s lobbyists are advising the individual players and working with the committee’s staffers to figure out the “tone and tenor” of the hearing, said one lobbyist familiar with the meetings.

“We’ve been working at least 12 to 14 hours a day for the last week trying to get ready for the hearing,” McGuiness said.

In gathering political intelligence, another lobbyist said, committee lawmakers’ positions on the hearings were at odds with their long-standing positions on privacy and labor rights.

Democrats have not been “as sympathetic towards the rights of players” as one might expect, the lobbyist said. Some Republicans said they were uncomfortable with the prospect that some of the players’ privacy might be violated.

The same lobbyist noted that Democrats were disappointed with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee.

“What would happen if an ex-con wrote a book about a Hollywood star using cocaine [and he was] subpoenaed?” the person said, referring to Jose Canseco, who has admitted using steroids and has accused other players, in his explosive new book, of doing the same, “Waxman is unwilling to compromise on anything and has been just shockingly inflexible.”