Holiday Bashes Feature Tony Blair and Loaded Lobbyists
The Sleuth kicked off the holiday party hopping season last night and found out just how good times are for one Democratic lobbyist whose business is booming amid these lean times. We also crossed paths with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a rare scotch tasting party at the British ambassador's residence.
Blair, who is now an international envoy to the Middle East, walked through the party after doing a round of interviews with British press at the embassy. He spoke yesterday to the Council on Foreign Relations and, according to the Times (of London), dined last night with President Bush.
The Times created a bit of a kerfuffle with its report this morning that Blair met yesterday with President-elect Obama. The two actually did not meet, but they did speak by phone.
At the party last night, Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens told us to "stay right there" as he disappeared with Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald and his wife behind a velvet rope. Had we known it was to meet the former prime minister we would have been more obedient! Alas, we moved on and missed meeting Blair.
Though we did catch a fleeting glimpse of him. And he wasn't exactly a party animal. While most everyone else clutched a small tumbler of single malt - including Hitchens, of course, The Root deputy editor Terence Samuel and Obama Presidential Inaugural Committee flak Brent Colburn - Blair was empty handed (at least when we saw him).
The boozy affair was co-hosted by the Scotch Whiskey Association, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and the Scottish Affairs Office. It featured some of the finest scotch available: a cask strength Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V special edition, which goes for about $3,500 a bottle; a 30-year Laphroaig Cairdeas; a 25-year edition of Glenlivet; a Glenmorangie Signet, and loads of other 25- and 30-year scotches.
Now back to the first party, hosted by the thriving Democratic lobbyist. That would be Steve Elmendorf, a veteran Democratic congressional aide, strategist and now lobbyist whose firm is growing exponentially as the economy tanks.
His holiday party featured plenty of good wine and an impressive spread catered by Keith Johnson of Bienvenu Catering, who is known among the many politicos who hire him not just for his delicious food but for his discretion (read: tight lips). Guests included: uber lawyer/book agent Bob Barnett; Democratic strategist Jenny Backus and her husband, Ed Pagono, who is on leave from his job as chief of staff to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to work on Obama's transition; Citigroup lobbyist Paul Thornell; AT&T lobbyist Lyndon Boozer; and lobbyists Gerald Harrington and Andy Dodson.
Elmendorf's growing list of clients include Citigroup (which is shedding 52,000 jobs after winning a government bailout), Fannie Mae, Ford Motor Co., Microsoft, Delta Airlines, the Magazine Publishers of America and American Wind Energy - proving that even the worst hit companies still need lobbyists.
What's the key to Elmendorf's success? "Work hard and vote Democratic," he says.
Mary Ann Akers
December 4, 2008; 2:25 PM ET
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