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K Street Files: Crowell’s Catch

For years, Crowell & Moring has kept its public policy team at C&M Capitolink at arm’s length. That changes today, with the firm set to announce it is bringing the seven-member lobbying team in-house.

The change-up comes on the heels of another announcement: The firm snagged six lawyer-lobbyists from California-based law firm Pillsbury Winthrop’s Washington, D.C., office.

Peter Robertson, who ran Pillsbury’s public policy group and is a former top Environmental Protection Agency official, will now head Crowell & Moring’s public policy practice along with Capitolink’s Pat Donnelly. “It is truly just about the wonderful opportunity that Crowell & Moring represents for us,” Robertson said of the Pillsbury group’s decision to move.

The departures were certainly a setback for Pillsbury, which tried to bolster its government relations team two years ago by bringing on Robertson and five other lobbyists from Patton Boggs.

Elizabeth Moeller will head the eight-member lobbyist team at Pillsbury. The firm declined to comment on its plans for rebuilding its public policy group.

Robertson will be joined by former White House National Economic Council Chief of Staff Thomas O’Donnell; former White House domestic policy adviser Florence Prioleau; former Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Elliott Laws; former White House staffer Joseph Trapasso; and Kristina Pisanelli, a former aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The hires, many of whom have ties to the Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton administrations, help round out Crowell & Moring’s Democratic ties.

“It’s a fairly broad-based practice that we’ve been doing over here,” said Robertson, whose client work includes the Consumer Electronics Association, Puget Sound Energy and several cities.

Tech Play. There might be more consolidation looming in the world of high-tech trade associations. The leaders of AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association) and the Information Technology Association of America confirmed late last week that they are in merger talks.

ITAA President and CEO Phil Bond and AeA President and CEO Chris Hansen said they hope their groups can come together to create a stronger, unified voice for their industry. In addition, they would seek to increase the new group’s fundraising and political activity.

“Chris and I felt the industry is not nearly as effective on Capitol Hill or with an administration by having so many voices,” Bond said. “It makes it difficult for policymakers to understand where we’re coming from.”

Both association chiefs acknowledged that the merger idea was, at least in part, driven by members of both groups. “Certainly some of the individual members who get stuck paying multiple dues have been vocal about it,” Bond said.

Hansen said both associations have common missions on such policy issues as trade, expansion of the H-1B visa program, health IT and an extension of a research and development tax credit. “Virtually on everything we’re in the same place,” Hansen said.

One issue where the two groups are not unified is patent reform.

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