Byline: Gregg Sangillo and Sara Jerome
The advertising and government-affairs firm R&R Partners has hired John Lopez , chief of staff to Sen. John Ensign , R-Nev., as a senior lobbyist. Lopez, 40, began working for then-Rep. Ensign in 1995. He took a leave in 1998 to work on his boss’s first Senate run, which Ensign lost in a squeaker to now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev. “It was very difficult, but it all worked out,” Lopez says. Ensign ran again in 2000, this time successfully, and Lopez was named chief of his Senate staff in 2006.
Ensign’s extramarital affair and the subsequent scandal made headlines this year, but Lopez insists that his departure has nothing to do with those problems. The senator said in a statement, “John Lopez has been a very loyal and talented aide and friend for the past 15 years.” Don Stewart , communications director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky., adds that Lopez is “well-liked, and he has a lot of people who appreciate his efforts in the leadership office.”
A Reno, Nev., native, Lopez figured out early that he was a Republican. As a 7-year-old during the 1976 presidential race, he remembers hearing a radio ad for Gerald Ford . “I looked at [my mother] and said, ‘Mommy, if you vote for Jimmy Carter , he’ll raise your taxes.’ ”
R&R Partners, incidentally, is known for promoting the Las Vegas slogan “What happens here, stays here.” –Gregg Sangillo
Around The Agencies
New to the Health and Human Services Department is policy analyst Julie Hantman , who is an interdisciplinary scientist at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of the office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response. Hantman, 40, will focus on policies for procuring medical supplies to confront biological emergencies, such as an H1N1 flu outbreak, a bioterrorist attack, or an emerging infectious disease.
BARDA contracts with companies that manufacture vaccines and other critical supplies to ensure that the commodities are tested and ready. Because there is rarely a market for such products until disaster strikes, the government’s procurement practices “create an incentive of the most fundamental kind,” Hantman explains.
Before joining HHS, she spent four years with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, most recently as a senior program officer for public health. During that period, she registered as a lobbyist and had frequent contact with staff members at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Vaccine Program Office, and the White House Homeland Security Council. Hantman also helped draft a statement on adult immunization that has since been endorsed by the American Medical Association. For 10 years before joining the society, she was an independent health policy consultant.
Hantman’s passion for health extends outside the policy arena: She has produced radio documentaries about the history and science of AIDS medication and the psychological effects on New Yorkers of the September 11 terrorist attacks. She also performs as a storyteller at SpeakeasyDC, the Capital Fringe Festival, and other venues. One of Hantman’s tales recounts lessons she learned as a “middle-class child of the suburbs” volunteering at needle-exchange programs aimed at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. –Sara Jerome
Brenda Sulick has joined the National PACE Association as vice president for congressional affairs and advocacy. She will lobby to protect the congressionally authorized Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, which coordinates the medical needs of frail senior citizens.
Sulick, 45, sees PACE as an example of successful government involvement in health care, and she wants the program to stay that way. She worries that health care reform might “inadvertently impact” PACE, which is largely financed through Medicare and Medicaid. “There could be repercussions for PACE if legislation is passed by people who aren’t aware of the PACE programs and how they function,” Sulick said.
She arrives from the Alzheimer’s Association, where she was the lead lobbyist. Before that, Sulick was an aide to Sen. Blanche Lincoln , D-Ark., on the Special Aging Committee, a position supported in part by the John Heinz Senate Fellowship in Issues of the Aging. Earlier, she handled health care issues for AARP’s National Retired Teachers Association division.
Sulick isn’t pleased with the way seniors have been drawn into the hyperbole of the health care debate, citing “inaccurate and distorted messages in the media about end-of-life counseling.” Realistic discussions about “long-term care services and supports” for seniors are necessary, she says. –S.J.<p> Jennifer Dunphy , 25, a lobbyist in the Boston office of O’Neill and Associates, was promoted to director in the firm’s Washington government-relations practice. (The CEO of O’Neill and Associates is Thomas P. O’Neill III , son of former Rep. Tip O’Neill , D-Mass., the longtime House speaker.) Dunphy says that her transition from Boston to Washington has been like “a high school reunion” with Capitol Hill staffers for the Massachusetts delegation.
Before she became a lobbyist, Dunphy focused on Bay State Democratic politics. She was a finance assistant on the 2004 Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign, and she stays in touch with former colleagues in the office of Sen. John Kerry , D-Mass. Dunphy was also the finance director for Massachusetts Sen. Marc Pacheco , and a campaign scheduler for Christopher Gabrieli during his failed 2006 bid for the gubernatorial nomination. She worked with Hillary Rodham Clinton ‘s 2008 presidential campaign on a finance steering committee devoted to young professionals.
Dunphy, who is concentrating on health care legislation, says she feels “less removed from the real action” now that she’s in D.C. –S.J.
Promoting intercultural understanding has become a specialty for S amia Makhlouf , 27, who joined the Arab American Institute last month as a government and policy analyst. She came from the Defense Department, where, as a program manager at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, she ran diplomatic seminars for international officials. Participants — from ambassadors to lieutenant colonels — would convene to hash out problems, build understanding, and learn more about Washington’s often-perplexing operations. “It’s difficult, unless you’re involved in our government, to understand how things work,” Makhlouf said. “We would explain to them how and why the things they found frustrating happen.”
Makhlouf traveled to more than 25 countries during her Pentagon tenure. Fluent in Arabic, she helped persuade officials from nations that had no diplomatic relations with one another to engage in dialogue and dinner: At the end of each seminar, participants would contribute dishes from their homeland to a potluck meal. “These men would come without their wives and struggle in hotel kitchens to make these elaborate entrees. Sometimes it would be awful,” she said, “but we’d eat it.” Makhlouf would typically prepare favorites from her Palestinian-American upbringing, unless another participant was Palestinian. Then she would represent her American roots–whipping up peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches or pizza.
Earlier in her career, Makhlouf interned at Defense and then was director of development for the U.S. Copts Association, which promotes the interests of a Christian religious minority in Egypt.
At the AAI, Makhlouf will focus on domestic issues, seeking ways to promote civil rights and include more Arab-Americans in government, including voting. “In the Middle East, your vote sometimes doesn’t count, depending on the type of government, your gender, and which ethnic or religious group you’re part of,” she said. “Sometimes being politically active was even dangerous. Arab-Americans sometimes have that mind-set. We want to convince them you have to vote — it’s your civic duty.” –S.J.
In other news from the Arab American Institute, Nadine Wahab recently left to become communications director for the Rights Working Group, an organization that promotes civil liberties and human rights in the U.S. She is preparing to launch the group’s program on racial profiling. While at the Arab American Institute, Wahab, 33, was a producer for Viewpoint With James Zogby, a television program featuring the group’s president. The show is broadcast throughout the Middle East by Abu Dhabi Television.
Wahab, 33, who had previous experience with a video-production company in New York City, was also an early producer for the “Imagine-Life” ad campaign, which spotlighted the hardships facing Palestinians in the occupied territories. “It seems to be that a lot of people are now looking for someone who is versed in both PR and video work,” she says. Wahab has also worked for public-relations firm Keybridge Communications in Washington, and volunteered with the Network of Arab-American Professionals in New York.
She spent the first part of her life in Egypt and Kuwait before her family moved to Northern Virginia. She graduated with a psychology degree from Virginia’s Marymount University. Even off the job, Wahab spends much of her time fighting for human rights. “A lot of my friends are organizers. I work with a lot of Palestinian organizers on the issue of peace in the Middle East,” she says. “One of the things about working and living in D.C., especially in this kind of field, is that you can’t differentiate between when you go out at night and what you do in the morning.” Wahab also enjoys Omar Offendum and other Arab-American hip-hop artists.
While she was at the AAI, a theatre organization in Venice, Calif., called the organization seeking input for developing an Arab-American character in an upcoming production. The character in the play Not Until You Know My Story was ultimately based on Wahab. When she saw the production in D.C., she got a surprise. “They really got my mannerisms. I did the entire [research] interview over the phone, and so when I saw them, I’m like, ‘How do you know that I move like that?’ ” –G.S.
The Hatcher Group, a public-affairs firm, has brought in several ex-journalists to build up its Bethesda, Md., office. The latest hire is Phyllis Jordan , a former Maryland editor for The Washington Post. Jordan says she thought it was time to leave the Fourth Estate. “One of the frustrations for me in journalism was always that you could write about something that you really believed in, but you could never advocate for it. And this [job] gives me an opportunity to do that,” she says. “I don’t think I’m ready to go out and represent insurance companies. But I am ready to advocate for good causes. And everything they handle here are good causes–nonprofits and foundations.” Among the Hatcher Group’s clients are the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Center for Global Development, and the Working Poor Families Project.
One of the highlights of Jordan’s Post career was editing a story about a 12-year-old boy whose untreated tooth abscess led to his death. “When the reporter I was working with [ Mary Otto ] first started the story, the boy was alive,” Jordan recalls. “And she was doing it as a story about how for $80, they could have fixed his tooth abscess, but instead they spent $200,000 on brain surgery. And then when we were about to run the story, we called to check on something and found out that he had died. Congress jumped on it, and it became a big issue. And they put dental benefits into [the State Children’s Health Insurance Program].”
Jordan, 50, hails from Lexington, Va. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Sweet Briar College in Virginia and a master’s in journalism at the University of Missouri (Columbia). Earlier in her career, she covered military matters for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she met her husband, Capt. Brian Wilson , a Navy lawyer. When Wilson’s career sent the couple to California, Jordan took a job at the Los Angeles Times as city editor for Ventura County. –G.S.
Have a tip for National Journal’s People column? Contact Gregg Sangillo or Sara Jerome at 202-739- 8400, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.