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K Street Files: British Firm Acquires Glover Park Group

The K Street mergers and acquisition scene may not be as vigorous as it was a decade ago, but its definitely not over.

British conglomerate WPP, which already owns several D.C. lobbying and consulting firms including Quinn Gillespie & Associates and Burson-Marsteller, announced Tuesday it is scooping up the Glover Park Group.

We felt like they are the smartest people in the business, Glovers Joel Johnson said.

For the past five years, the private equity firm Svoboda Collins has been the majority partner in Glover Park, Johnson said. Over the years, weve always been interested in how we take the company to the next level, he said.

But such acquisitions dont always work out. The culture of the bigger firm can usurp the scrappy vibe of a boutique, and in some cases such as Barbour Griffith and Rogers ­ firms have actually bought themselves back from a parent company.

Theres a sense that bigger is not always better, said Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council. A lot of corporations and associations are looking at boutique firms more.

Pinkham noted that WPPs newest acquisition shows that even though lobbying isnt a recession-proof enterprise, it is recession resistant and small firms can make attractive investments.

The trick is maintaining that
boutique-iness under the corporate structure, which could be the best of both worlds, he said.

Johnson said thats the plan at Glover: The culture of the firm is core to everything we do, and were going to continue that.

Citizens United in Advertising

Think there are already too many political and issue ads? Well, Victor Hannak wants even more, and hes started a business Standlouder.com that he says will give everyday citizens and small-business owners access to the airwaves.

Up until now, only wealthy groups like large corporations could afford it, Hannak said. We want to turn those monologues into national dialogues that everybody can participate in.

But he and his lawyer, Womble Carlyles Jim Kahl, are awaiting approval from the Federal Election Commission.

The idea is for ordinary citizens to view campaigns and then sign on by pledging money to help fund billboards or TV ads. Hannaks business would take a cut of the money.

Were asking the FEC, What is the level of regulation to which this would be subjected? Kahl explained.

Both said they saw opportunities after the Supreme Courts Citizens United decision, which allows corporations and unions to spend unrestricted money on campaigns.

This is Citizens United for the many rather than for the few,
Hannak said.

Lobbying for Gadhafis Billions

Lobbyists who represent victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorist acts have intensified their efforts to get more money to compensate Americans harmed in such attacks.

The lobbyists argue that it should be a condition of relations between the U.S. and the new post-Moammar Gadhafi Libyan government. Crowell & Moring partner Stuart Newberger, who is working on the effort, said he predicts a shortfall of some hundreds of millions of dollars to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.

Were asking Congress to have [the] State [Department] set up this program using Gadhafis frozen assets here in the United States, he said.

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