Viacom Taps GOP Bridge-Builder

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CBS parent Viacom Inc. is working overtime to get in the good graces of the White House and the Republican-led Congress.

In the latest move, the company’s D.C. lobbying shop has hired well-connected Mehlman & Vogel as consultants.

The move gives Viacom a pair of outside guns with strong ties to both the Bush administration and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
The firm is led by Bruce Mehlman, who was the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for technology policy during Bush’s first term. His brother Ken ran the President’s reelection campaign. Alex Vogel is Frist’s former chief counsel.
Mehlman & Vogel’s hiring came a few weeks before CBS News President Andrew Heyward dropped in on Bush communications director Dan Bartlett to thaw chilly relations with the White House. Vogel wouldn’t say whether his firm set up the meeting.
Vogel says his firm doesn’t have any other media clients at the moment and he looks forward to working with “a great company.”
No doubt, Viacom would like Republicans to talk about the company in such glowing terms following a rough year with the GOP. Party rank-and-file made hay over the Super Bowl halftime debacle. Then came Dan Rather’s bungled story about the President’s National Guard Service.
Vogel will be trying to polish Viacom’s image in a town where people are given to saying things like, “Cable is a bit like pharmaceutical companies or Microsoft. Everybody loves the product but feels that the industry is a big and potentially dangerous player.” The speaker? Vogel’s partner, Bruce Mehlman, in 2003.

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