Politics

GOP Lobbyists Launch New Shop as High-Profile Firm Fades

QGA Public Affairs was once among K Street's top moneymakers

QGA was founded as a bipartisan lobbying and public affairs shop in 2000. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The once high-profile K Street shop QGA Public Affairs is restructuring with the departure of Democratic founder Jack Quinn, and some of its marquee lobbyists are planning to open a new venture.

Republicans John Feehery, John Easton and Adam Belmar all are leaving to start EFB Advocacy, a boutique lobbying and communications shop in the Eastern Market section of Capitol Hill.

Democrat Jim Manley, a former aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, said his next step is unclear.

“I’m still deciding what my next move is,” Manley told CQ Roll Call.

QGA, which began in 2000 as Quinn Gillespie & Associates, quickly became one of the hottest shops on K Street and rose to the top 10 among lobbying firms. Its revenue peaked in 2006 and 2007 at about $18 million a year, according to lobbying disclosure reports tabulated by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Quinn served as White House counsel during the Clinton administration. The other founder, Republican Ed Gillespie, decamped to join the George W. Bush administration. Gillespie, who came close to defeating Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia in 2014, is now running for governor of the Old Dominion. 

Quinn announced earlier this year that he would join Burson-Marsteller, the global public relations firm, which like QGA is also owned by WPP. Patrick Przybyski, who is Burson’s worldwide chief operating officer, will serve as acting chairman of QGA and noted that “we are restructuring the business to best serve our clients.”

A small number of QGA employees is expected to stay on, likely winding down operations. The firm’s recently registered lobbying clients included AT&T, 21st Century Fox, National Association of Broadcasters, Sony Corp. and US Steel.

Feehery said that he expected some of the clients  from his former firm to follow to the new EFB Advocacy, though he declined to name which ones.

Feehery is a former top communications aide to House GOP leaders in the 1990s-early 2000s, working for J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois when he was speaker and Tom DeLay when the Texan was majority whip. 

Easton, before joining QGA, served as chief of staff to then-Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Gordon H. Smith, R-Ore., who now runs the broadcasters' group. Easton’s resume also includes stints with the American Medical Association and the American Forest and Paper Association.

Belmar, a former TV journalist, was a communications adviser to President George W. Bush.

EFB will combine digital technology and story-telling with traditional lobbying, its founder said.

“Everybody is looking for that sweet spot of communications and lobbying, and we think we’ve found that,” Feehery said. “We’re really excited. We want to try something brand new, a new approach.”

Quinn said by email that he wished Feehery and the others well in their endeavor. “I’m sure they will have a good deal of success,” he said.

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