Less than four months after he left office, former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has already scored a major payday downtown. The firm he founded with former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) earned at least $945,000 during its first quarter in business, according to House filings.
That take is impressive in its own right. But it is also likely to grow, as the firm, officially known as the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, continues to ink new contracts.
Just this month, as the second quarter got under way, it signed up two blue chip clients, the Coalition for Patent Fairness and Tyson Foods.
The firm’s first-quarter total did not include its earnings from the United Space Alliance, whose report was not available online at press time.
Bret Boyles, Lott’s former chief of staff and now a lobbyist with the firm, declined to comment on any aspect of the firm, its clients or its fees.
Breaux, Lott, their respective sons John and Chet, Boyles and two other former aides to the Senators make up the firm, which now has 16 clients.
Most lobbyists and industry watchers said the results should come as no surprise. The two former Senators offer prized insight into the legislative process and claim goodwill on both sides of the aisle that translates into valuable access.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if you have two folks the stature of John Breaux and Trent Lott that they’re going to do well,” said Alex Vogel, former chief of staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and now a partner at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti.
But there are also several factors weighing against the firm in its start-up year. Prime among them is the revolving-door prohibition that bans Lott from lobbying either chamber this year.
“They’re beating expectations for a firm where one of the partners can’t even talk to” lawmakers, one Democratic lobbyist said. Lott can still lean on executive branch agencies.
Add to Lott’s sidelining the fact that presidential election years usually make for skimpy legislative agendas — a phenomenon compounded in the last year of an administration — and an economic downturn that is prompting many potential clients to sit on their wallets.
The firm’s first-quarter results present an incomplete snapshot. While Breaux-Lott opened its doors Jan. 7, it didn’t start work for several clients until February or even March.
Still, the firm’s first-quarter filings suggest it has built a stable of at least seven clients paying $50,000 a month, close to the top end of what the toniest lobby shops charge. Last year, only 28 clients across town averaged payments that high or higher, according to a tally by CQ MoneyLine.
“I would say there are a lot of former Members and staffers who would love to have the start-up these guys have had. They would give their eye teeth to have those numbers,” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter for the McCormick Group.
Breaux-Lott’s top-paying clients during the first three months of the year include AT&T ($150,000 for help on FISA legislation); the Association of American Railroads ($150,000 for a tax cut on infrastructure investments); and the Plains Exploration and Production Company ($150,000 for work on offshore oil and gas issues).