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Posted at 1:39 PM ET, 01/11/2011

Retail trade group hires new chief lobbyist

By Ylan Mui

The National Retail Federation announced Tuesday that it has hired a new chief lobbyist to tackle key tax policy and workplace issues.

David French will take will take over as senior vice president of government relations for the trade group in February. He had been a lobbyist at the International Franchise Association. French replaces Steve Pfister, who left the group last year after 12 years in the job.

The shakeup is part of NRF's attempts to build its lobbying arm following the appointment in in May of chief executive Matt Shay, who also held the top job at IFA. In a statement, the group said it plans to make additional government affairs hires and create a new communication and public affairs department.

"This is a great association with a long track record," French said in an interview.

One of the most immediate issues facing retailers is the ongoing debate over interchange fees -- also known as "swipe fees" -- on debit cards, which merchants must pay to banks each time a shoppers uses a card to for a purchase. Retailers won a major victory last summer when Congress overhauled financial regulation and included a provision that the Federal Reserve set guidelines for the fees. Banks have been pushing to weaken or repeal the provision ever since. It is seeking comment on a proposal that would reduce swipe fees by 70 percent.

"We will fight to aggressively defend the law and resist the efforts of banks to roll it bank," French said.

The group also plans a long battle against any value-added tax, a sort of sales tax assessed at several stages of merchandise production.

French also said that President Obama's signature health care legislation is "problematic" for retailers and threatens job growth but that it was too early to comment on call by some Republican legislators to repeal the law.

By Ylan Mui  | January 11, 2011; 1:39 PM ET
Categories:  Corporate taxes, Corporations, Financial regulation, Retail  
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