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Former federal lawmakers from Oklahoma build lobbying businesses

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Several former Oklahoma congressmen are keeping busy developing their lobbying businesses in Washington, D.C.

Three months after leaving the U.S. Senate, Don Nickles has been building his lobbying and consulting business with large corporate clients like General Motors and charitable causes such as the YMCA.

``We're off to a good start,'' Nickles told The Oklahoman's Washington bureau. ``I had zero income on January 4th,'' which is when his term ended.

Nickles, a Ponca City native who served 24 years in the Senate, is the latest Oklahoman who has found life after Congress in the lobbying business. Though the Oklahomans left government service, they are still closely involved in the operations of Congress and the executive branch.

Two former House members from Oklahoma, Bill Brewster and J.C. Watts, run companies with multiple clients interested in government policies.

Three others, Glenn English, Dave McCurdy and Steve Largent, head trade organizations made up of numerous companies with related interests.

English, who left the House in 1994, is chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. McCurdy is president of the Electronic Industries Alliance, and Largent is president and chief executive officer of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

As prominent advocates for their industries, they sometimes testify before Congress on issues relevant to their associations.

Nickles is barred for a year from lobbying his former colleagues directly, though he said he can talk to federal agency officials.

In its initial form, Nickles' company is focused on lobbying and consulting and business ventures.

Among Nickles' first clients are anesthesiologists and Bristol-Myers.

Before his retirement, Nickles expressed a desire to work for nonprofit groups in addition to corporate clients.

``I like to fight for causes,'' he said.

To that end, he has signed on to represent the YMCA and an effort called Healthy Media, Healthy Children, which Nickles said is aimed at protecting youth from harmful images in the media.

Watts also works for some nonprofit organizations, serving on the board of the Boy Scouts of America.

Nickles shouldn't have trouble making money between his charitable efforts.

Watts' firm, which was created when Watts left the House in 2003, has made more than $1.7 million in lobbying fees, according to a report released last week by the Center for Public Integrity. That same report shows Brewster's company, Capitol Hill Consulting Group, made $2.7 million in 2003.

Watts, who worked to promote historically black colleges in the House, now represents some, including Langston University. The former University of Oklahoma quarterback also represents the Bowl Championship Series, which has come under congressional scrutiny.

Though he travels frequently, Watts said he doesn't miss the pace of Congress.

``I'm still busy and on the road,'' Watts said, ``but I can control my schedule a little more. I still haven't found anything like football, where I can play for five months and take the rest of the year off.''
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