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Rockstar Energy Drink targets beverage laws

New, sizable government lobbying team includes several former congressional staffers

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Party like a rockstar? Try lobby like a rockstar.

Rockstar, Inc., maker of the eponymous beverage, has hired a well-connected team of Podesta Group lobbyists — nine in all — to press federal lawmakers on "legislation and oversight regarding energy drinks," a new filing with the U.S. Senate indicates.

This is the first foray into federal lobbying for the Las Vegas-based company, which offers a caffeine- and additive-filled product line with brands such as "Rockstar Juiced" and "Rockstar Punched."

And it comes as the Food and Drug Administration is investigating the safety of energy drinks. Lawmakers, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have also expressed concern about the beverages.

A group of doctors is likewise lobbying the FDA on the topic this month, writing in a letter that the agency should take "prompt action to protect children and adolescents from the dangers of highly caffeinated energy drinks." 

Rockstar, Inc., joins fellow energy drink maker Monster Energy Co., which late last year signed Podesta Group and Covington & Burling to lobby on its behalf, and Red Bull North America, Inc., which inked Heather Podesta + Partners last fall.

Podesta Group spokeswoman Missi Tessier confirmed that her firm would be lobbying for Rockstar, Inc., on the federal regulation of energy drinks, but did not elaborate further. Representatives from Rockstar, Inc., did not reply to requests for comment.

Rockstar, Inc.'s lobbying team, according to the company's filing with the U.S. Senate, includes several people with significant experience working for Congress. They include:

  • Israel Klein, former communications director for Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and press secretary for Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
  • David Marin, former press secretary and legislative director for ex-Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.
  • Sean McLaughlin, former chief of staff and general counsel for the House Judiciary Committee
  • David Morgenstern, former chief of staff and legislative director for Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
  • Elizabeth Morra, former press secretary for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
  • Stephen Northrop, former health policy director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
  • Nora Connors, former legislative assistant for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Firm leader Tony Podesta himself is also listed as one of Rockstar, Inc.'s registered lobbyists.

Podesta Group's lengthy list of recent clients also includes other beverage companies, including Heinekin USA and Diageo North America, maker of such beer and liquor brands as Guinness, Jose Cuervo, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Captain Morgan.

The beverage industry — both makers of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks — has a long history of lobbying Capitol Hill.

This is, perhaps, no better illustrated than in 2009, when companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, and their affiliated trade groups, spent exponentially more than usual in a successful effort to parry some congressional members' efforts to levy a soda tax to help fund health care reform initiatives.