Lobbyists fight repeal of DoD's 'buy American' rule

A Clinton Administration proposal to repeal a decades-old law requiring the Defense Department to buy only made-in-America products when purchasing certain items--from alloys to boots to food--is prompting a flurry of lobbying activity.

An informal coalition of American manufacturers and labor unions is fighting to keep the buy-American rule. The coalition includes Burlington Industries Inc., Milliken & Co., the American Textile Manufacturers Institute Inc. and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees (UNITE).

Other coalition members, such as Specialty Steel Industry of North America and the Footwear Industries of America, are using their longtime Washington law firm Collier, Shannon, Rill & Scott, to fight the change. The American Apparel Manufacturers Association recently retained Collier, Shannon. Other buy-America clients are expected to join soon, said government relations adviser Robert W. Porter, who is working on the issue along with partner Lauren Howard. About 10 years ago, Porter was an an aide to then-Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, who now serves as Defense Secretary.

Separately, the Timken Co., a roller-bearing and alloy steel company that favors the old buy-America rule, has hired the Genesis Consulting Group, a new firm headed by Mark Benedict, formerly co-owner of the firm Kinghorn Associates. Also, Mary Ann Gilleece, who's with the Washington office of Mannatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, a Los Angeles-based law firm, is lobbying for RFD Ltd., which sells inflatable life rafts to the Pentagon.

In the meantime, among those supporting the administration's repeal effort is Kamewa USA Inc. The Florida-based marketer of ship propulsion systems, a subsidiary of London-based Vickers Plc., has hired the firm David O'Brien & Associates.

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