Lobbyists converging on homeland security
By Sharon Theimer
WASHINGTON Cargo haulers, bail bondsmen and a host of other corporate interests are hard at work trying to shape a new Homeland Security Department that could regulate them or give them business or both.
"It's going to be a huge food fight," said Jonathan Winer, an attorney and former Senate staff member. "There's something for everyone here."
At issue is what the new department will do, who will run it and how it will spend its $37 billion annual budget. Some companies and industry groups see opportunity; others are trying to fend off problems.
The Fechheimer Brothers Co. of Cincinnati hopes to sell uniforms to the new agency. Michigan-based Second Chance Body Armor is offering protective gear.
The Pennsylvania-based Cross Current Corp. is promoting a high-tech information-sharing system that it is building for law enforcement in its home state as a model the new department may want to buy.
Others are lobbying on the department makeup what they want included, what they want out. The Business Software Alliance, for example, wants it to include a cybersecurity agency.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Bruce Josten said the business community will want to make sure the non-security sides of customs and immigration run smoothly after reorganization, allowing goods to move and workers to enter the country.
The American Trucking Association shares the Chamber's concern about customs. In addition, it is leery about being overseen by both the Department of Transportation and the Homeland Security Department.
"We're on guard in two ways: We're on guard as far as national security is concerned, and we're on guard against any misguided security-related regulations that would hamper the way we do our job," spokesman Mike Russell said.
Josten said it is only logical for industries to resist a change in who oversees them, even if they weren't entirely pleased with the status quo.
"The devil you know is always better than the devil you don't know," Josten said. "Because you know how to play the game, you know who the people are, you know where the players are and you know how to work the system and play through."