NEWSLETTER

March 2001 Regional Reporter

White House trio attempts to answer regionals' calls

Meet the press aides

pressaids.jpg - 111498 Bytes
Scott Stanzel, Jeanie Mamo and Ken Lisaius, outside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, bring years of campaign and Capitol Hill experience to their new jobs as regional press secretaries for the new administration.

By Jeff Miller
Allentown Morning Call

They don't command West Wing press podium or see their names in The New York Times on a daily basis. But Ken Lisaius, Jeanie Mamo and Scott Stanzel are important information gatekeepers in the White House.

The trio speaks for the Bush administration via the Media Affairs Office, where most regional reporters in Washington go for information about presidential initiatives, appointments and travel plans.

Lisaius goes coast-to-coast from the Northwest and Northeast. Mamo's portfolio has the southern tier. And Stanzel's territory runs from the Plains states to Pennsylvania. The sheer volume of calls spanning so many time zones guarantees a lot of long days and weekend shifts.

Structurally, the media affairs office doesn't report to chief White House spokesman Ari Fleischer but to Karen Hughes, whose title is counselor to the president.

The arrangement reflects "Karens and the Presidents desire to serve and think about and interact with people beyond the Beltway media," said their boss, Tucker Eskew, deputy assistant to the President.

Media Affairs has a number of other operations, including offices for Hispanic and New Media, and broadcast operations. But the voices on the other end of the telephone will usually be those of the three regional press secretaries. Here's an introduction:

Ken Lisaius

Ken Lisaius, 32, was born in Michigan but moved with his family to Spokane while still in grade school. His interest in politics blossomed at Washington State University, where he was active in the student senate. For six months, he lobbied the state legislature on tuition rates and other student concerns.

After graduation in 1992, Lisaius worked for the state Republican Party through the fall elections. Later, a friend suggested that he talk "to this guy who's going to run against Tom Foley." Lisaius said, "I want a job, not something I'm going to do for six months."

But working for Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., turned out to be a longer gig after Nethercutt upset the Speaker of the House in the 1994 Republican landslide.

Lisaius served as Nethercutts press secretary until 1999, when he took a job at Gabbegroup, a small public relations firm in New York. The client list included Conoco, Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson. He joined the Bush campaign relatively late, taking a leave of absence from Gabbegroup just before the Republican Convention, moving to Austin != and then Florida != for the duration of the election.

Of his new job, Lisaius said, "It's not intimidating but it can be overwhelming if you let it get that way. You're dealing with reporters from all over the country. There's definitely a sense that youre words are being watched so much closer."

Jeanie Mamo

Jeanie Mamo, 35, grew up in Rocky Mount, N.C., and majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina. After graduation, she moved to Washington and worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the final year of the Reagan administration. She lingered a few months into Bush I before leaving to start a public relations office within a law firm, only to see the firm declare bankruptcy.

"Some of your darkest days turn out to be fortunate things," Mamo said.

The fortunate part was a job in Sen. Phil Gramm's press office from 1990 through his presidential bid in 1996. Mamo credits Gramm and his press secretary, Larry Neal, with teaching her "everything I know." "That's where I learned a lot about politics and strategy and conservatism."

At that point, Mamo made another detour out of politics when David Gardner, a college friend, recruited her to the Motley Fool to handle the media onslaught drawn by the hot financial Web site headquarted in Northern Virginia. Mamo said it was fun being a Fool, "but I so missed politics."

Six months later, she was back on the Hill, working as communication director first for Rep. Jim Ryun of Kansas and then for Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas.

Around the Republican Convention, Mamo was recruited to work for the Republicans' Victory 2000 operation, where she arraigned to have surrogates across the country go on TV and radio in support of the Bush campaign.

It's a role she continued to play during the post-election period from Tallahassee.

Mamo said her political beliefs are "right in line" with Bushs, and shes thrilled to be working for him.

"We hope to meet all the reporters' needs," Mamo said. "And when we don't know an answer, well try to find someone who does."

Scott Stanzel

Scott Stanzel, 28, grew up on a farm in Sac City, Iowa, population 2,200. Being an Iowan, Stanzel took a well-traveled road into politics. Following a Washington internship with Rep. Jim Ross Lightfoot and Sen. Charles Grassley, Stanzel worked the Iowa Caucus for Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign.

After the caucus, he stayed in Iowa to raise money for Lightfoot's Senate bid against Sen. Tom Harkin.

Lightfoot didn't make it back to Washington, but Stanzel did when Grassley hired him as assistant press secretary. In addition to writing press releases and answering press calls, Stanzel designed Grassley's web site and produced his monthly TV show.

He signed on with the Bush campaign in the fall of 1999, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri as well as Texas. After the voting, he went to New Mexico for its recount, and then != where else? != to Tallahassee.

As the administration fills out, Stanzel expects to redirect more calls to agency and department press secretaries. But "if it's something that pertains to the White House," he said, "we'll try to deal with those as rapidly and as accurately as we can."

Stanzel, who has a picture of himself skydiving on his personal Web site, said leaving the Hill to work for Bush required a "leap of faith." But so far, it's been a smooth landing.

And, he said, "It's a very humbling experience to come to work each day and walk on the White House grounds and understand that the work going on there has a tremendous impact on the country and the rest of the world.

"As a person coming from small-town Iowa, I consider myself lucky to be here."

Who to contact

Looking for a comment from the White House? The media affairs phone number is (202) 456-6238. But whom you call depends on what state youre covering. The line-up looks like this:

Ken Lisaius
Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Scott Stanzel
Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.




Track former congressmen != they're probably still close to the Hill

By Katherine Hutt Scott
Gannett News Service

If one of your former members of Congress has been out of office for two years or more, you can check how he or she is earning money using a variety of Web sites and public records.

Chances are, if the former member held a key position on a committee involving economic matters, he will return to (or remain in) Washington to lobby his former colleagues. The only restriction is that he wait one year after leaving office.

Another popular post-congressional job is to serve on corporate boards.

Lobbyists must disclose their compensation in biannual reports filed with Congress.

Publicly traded companies must disclose the compensation of their board members in annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I recently wrote about the post-congressional activities of former Sen. Larry Pressler, a South Dakota Republican credited with authoring legislation that transformed the telecommunications industry, who left office at the end of 1996. I compared Pressler's current earnings with his Senate salary, and noted which committees he had served on.

Here's how I did it:

1. I checked the Nexis news archives for any mentions since January 1997 of Pressler and telecommunications. That produced a wealth of stories and press releases connecting Pressler to various technology companies and mentioning lobbying activities. Read the press releases carefully - I found one from a telecom company, Net2000, that had hired Pressler as a senior advisor and quoted him as saying, "When we wrote the Telecommunications Act, it was service providers such as Net2000 that we had in mind."

2. I searched for Pressler's name on www.freeedgar.com to find all the publicly traded companies he was associated with. I did that by clicking on "Full Text Search" in the left column, then typing in Pressler's name. For each company, I read through the most recent DEF 14A form (the annual form that discloses the compensation for the company's officers and directors). Compensation can include a director's fee, stock and stock options. The form also includes useful information such as the company's address.

3. I calculated the value of Pressler's stock and stock options. For the stock, I checked on http://moneycentral.msn.com for the closing price the day I filed my story. I multiplied that price times the number of shares. For the stock options, I got the price on the date that the options became exercisable, by calling First Call/Thomson Financial, a service that uses records filed with the SEC to track stock trades by company directors and officers. Then I got the closing price on the day I filed my story, calculated the difference and multiplied that times the number of options. (Some of Pressler's stock options were worthless because of the recent downturn in the financial markets.) I called some of the companies, asking for their investor relations department, to verify the information.

4. For more detail on the companies mentioned in Nexis that weren't publicly traded, I used the Internet search engine Google. Then I went to the Web pages of each of the private companies and looked for mentions of their board or advisory board members. I also searched under Pressler's name != and found his personal Web site.

5. I went to the House's Legislative Resource Center, in Room B-106 of the Cannon Building, where I looked at electronic archives of lobbying registration forms. Lobbying firms, not individual lobbyists, are required to register. But the forms list the individual lobbyists and say when the firm was hired to represent the client, how much the client paid the firm biannually and when the firm stopped representing the client.

6. To round out the story, I got comments from the Center for Public Integrity and a university professor who specializes in ethics in public policy. Then I called Pressler, who declined to say how much he was making in private life.



Bush budget likely to affect schools' technology funds

By Jennifer Sergent
Scripps Howard News Service

When the federal agencies put out their detailed budgets some time in early April, look closely at the Department of Education for a hugely local story: the E-rate program.

President Bush indicated in his education plan last month that he wanted to consolidate all the department's technology grant programs. That includes the E-rate, which is now run by the Federal Communications Commission and doles out $2.5 billion per year for telephone and Internet access at schools and libraries.

There are major ups and downs to this decision, which will be spelled out in the budget details. The up-side is that schools will be given more flexibility in how they spend their money.

Most schools have already used to money for basic phone and Internet service, and they now want to use the grants for things like teacher training in technology and software programs, which are now forbidden under the E-rate program.

But on the down side, they'll probably get much less money. The E-rate is funded through a "universal services" surcharge on your monthly phone bill, so it has a dedicated and constant stream of funding. If it were blended in with the Education Department, annual funding would be subject to the whims of the congressional appropriations process.

Yet, if you call your local schools that are receiving e-rate grants, most of the chief technology officers will tell you that they are dissatisfied with the red tape and numerous restrictions that are currently attached to the grants. They say they would welcome changes to the program.

There are a wealth of people to talk to for your story. First, find out which of your local schools have gotten money from the program since it was started in 1998. Go to www.universalservice.org and click on "schools and libraries" and then click on "funding commitments."

You can either use Adobe Acrobat to see the funding in your state's schools or, if you know Excel, you can download the information into your own spreadsheet to better sort the numbers. This will help when you work with your graphics people to do a nice chart to go with your story.

Unfortunately, you have to repeat this process three times, for each of the E-rate funding years. But once you get the information, you can call the technology officers at those schools and ask them how they have used the money and what they think of the program.

These people gave me my best angle for this story. They also helped me get pictures for the story by telling me the best places to send a photographer to shoot a computer class that has benefited from the program.

Also, FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani is a good person to talk to. She is a vocal cheerleader for the E-rate program and wants to see it stay under the auspices of the FCC.

Congressional champions include Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. (who grilled Education Sec. Roderick Paige during a Senate Education Committee hearing last month on why he wanted to fool around with the E-rate).

The National Taxpayers Union is an enemy of the program, saying the telephone surcharge amounts to an illegal tax. Check out its Web site dedicated to killing the E-rate: www.goretax.com (named after Al Gore, who championed the program).

Congressional enemies of the program include Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La. Both will offer good sound bites.

Contacts Department of Education. Spokeswoman Lindsey Kozberg, 202-401-3026, cell: 202-320-9846.

Federal Communications Commission, Commissioner Gloria Tristani. Go through Deena Shetler 202-418-2300. Tristani put out a statement on Feb. 7 praising the E-rate. Go to www.fcc.gov and look back through the headlines for it.

National Taxpayers Union. Press person is Pete Sepp, 703-683-5700.

National School Boards Association. Executive Director Anne Bryant, 703-838-6717.

Until the budget comes out, folks at the Education Department are mum.




Board meeting minutes - February 5

Present: Carl Weiser, Rachel Smolkin, Angela Greiling, Brett Lieberman, Jake Thompson, Marc Heller.

Weiser updated the board on efforts to reach out to the White House press office. So far, Ari Fleischer has not been responsive, he said. Weiser said he also heard recently from Steve Boyd, former regional press aide at the Clinton White House. Steve apologized for the difficulties experienced by regional reporters and made two suggestions: first, to create a regional press pool and assign one representative reporter to the White House briefing; and second, to give the White House a list of which regional reporters cover which areas.

The board found the first idea unworkable but agreed to provide the White House with RRA's e-mail list.

Weiser said he recently signed on to a "congressional openness resolution," which would require the Senate to put Congressional Research Service documents, lobbying and gift disclosures and other documents online. The resolution goes to senators Leahy and McCain, he said.

Weiser reported on poor turnout for the Casey seminar. Out of 50 slots, only 25 people signed up, he said. The board discussed possible explanations, including the hassle of getting a letter of recommendation from an editor and the highly specialized nature of the reporting involved.

The board turned to a discussion of what format to use for the Regional Reporters' guidebook != and whether to put it on a disk instead of a printed version. The board agreed by consensus to create a printed version and a website version but not to distribute it on disk.

After an update on newsletter articles and upcoming newsmakers, the board set the next meeting for March 5, and adjourned.




RESTIVE REGIONS

At the Associated Press, Bart Jansen has left as California/Nevada regional to become the regional for the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald.

Matt Kelley was promoted from Four Corners regional (Arizona, New Mexico,Colorado and Utah) to an investigative reporting job on the AP national staff. His replacement is Robert Gehrke of the AP's Salt Lake City bureau.

Christopher Thorne, currently AP's correspondent in Delaware, will join the AP regional staff this month as a new High Plains regional reporter, covering the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming.

At Newhouse News Service, Karen Meadows replaced Brett Davis writing for the Huntsville Times. Brett went to Aerospace Daily, a McGraw-Hill publication. Meadows most recently worked for AP in West Palm Beach and previously the Orlando Sentinel and the Birmingham News.

Mary Orndorff replaced Mike Brumas writing for the Birmingham News. Mary previously worked for the paper in Birmingham and before that at the Montgomery Advertiser. Got news? call Jessica Wehrman at (202)408-2705 or send it to wehrmanj@shns.com




Web Link

After for Florida Follies, here are some Web sites that might help you with stories about fixing problems with the countrys voting system. Dont forget to check in with congressional committees, political party sites and interest groups, such as the NAACP.

http://www.igc.apc.org/cvd/
The Center for Voting and Democracy is a nonprofit in Takoma Park, Md., that studies "how voting systems affect participation, representation and governance." Lots of basic information here for background on machines, systems and legislation.

http://www.lwv.org/
The League of Women Voters' site has information about previous voting reforms, including an interesting 1970 study on the Electoral College. You might also find a local source on the Leagues petition to change the system.

http://www.voting-integrity.org/
The Voting Integrity Project's site has information about voter fraud, voter technology, "early voting" and other subjects. The site lists problem "hot states" like California, Florida and Pennsylvania. (Note: The group recently won a correction from Salon over a story questioning its bipartisanship in trying to clean up voter roles in Florida and elsewhere.)

www.naco.org
The National Association of Counties has put together a national panel on election standards.

http://www.stateline.org/electionreform/
This page offers a quick way to keep up with news about election reforms in the states.

http://www.netvoting.org/
Resources on voting over the Internet.




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