Cassidy & Associates founder Gerry Cassidy laid off 12 employees this week and gave former Rep. Marty Russo a buyout package as part of a makeover at his firm.
While perhaps not the gold rush of years past, revenue from appropriations work is included in Cassidy’s new business plan, which counts on earmarks remaining in spending bills for the foreseeable future. Cassidy said the omnibus package now before Members is proof that earmarks won’t disappear entirely.
Even more, he doubts that many new GOP Members will be able keep campaign promises and will ultimately “need to do things for their constituents and that their constituents demand them.”
“I’m a believer that appropriations are here to stay,” Cassidy said.
The firm, which Cassidy founded in the 1970s, was long the top revenue-earning shop on K Street. But in recent years, it has struggled to stay in the top five of the biggest lobbying firms. For the first half of 2010, Cassidy & Associates ranked No. 6 in Roll Call’s lobby revenue survey.
Cassidy’s aggressive drive to stay at the top has gotten the firm some bad press. For example, Cassidy briefly employed now-disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff after his corruption scandal broke. Abramoff, later convicted of fraud and conspiracy, recently fulfilled the terms of his release from federal prison at a Baltimore-area pizzeria.
A former Cassidy employee said an overhaul of the shop has been a long time coming. Appropriations work has dried up in the past five years, the source said, and smaller firms — many of them founded by ex-Cassidy lobbyists — have swooped in and taken business from their bigger competitors such as Cassidy.
“The layoffs are just an example of the challenges a lobbying firm has in this environment; the only option for Cassidy is to change,” the former Cassidy employee said. “They can’t be the behemoth that they were. They have to catch up to the times and position themselves to really compete in a global marketplace and the changing nature of Capitol Hill.”
And Cassidy’s firm has done it before.
The former Cassidy employee said the shop successfully remade itself after President George W. Bush’s 2000 election victory, which precipitated more Republican hires.
“To give Gerry Cassidy credit, it’s not that he hasn’t realized this,” the former employee said. “Gerry knew he needed to evolve the firm, but I don’t think he did it fast enough. This is an example of being too reliant on a certain sector, and he’s being forced to cut spending.”