The Podesta Group’s newest hire — Frank Lowenstein, the staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — is not the traditional Capitol Hill poach.
After six years as the chief liaison to some of the world’s most complex regimes for Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lowenstein is not moving to K Street to help Egypt, Thailand and the Podesta Group’s other foreign clients get on the good side of Washington policymakers.
Instead, he will help multinational companies like Johnson & Johnson Inc. and Boeing Co. to expand overseas.
Facing an unfriendly White House, the end of earmarks and lawmakers’ reluctance to be associated with corporate interests, the Podesta Group is one of several traditional lobbying shops that are adding foreign business consulting to their repertoire.
“This is a growing kind of business around town,” Lowenstein said. “And based on the other firms that I was talking to, it’s really an increasing need.”
Starting Oct. 24, Lowenstein will advise companies on the political risks of doing business in uncharted territory. Podesta boasts a rapidly growing international practice — the firm’s international revenues have increased by 61 percent in the past year, a spokeswoman said — and Lowenstein said he will lead a “huge effort” to expand the advisory division.
Nels Olson, a headhunter at Korn/Ferry International, said a number of other firms are considering following suit.
“There are a number of firms who are looking at bringing on strategic advisory services that help companies look at the political dynamics, whether in the U.S. or overseas,” he said. “As the marketplace has become more international, lobbying and strategic consulting of this ilk are becoming more widely accepted as tools that companies can use.”
Lowenstein was involved in crafting the Senate resolutions on Egypt and Libya, the ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, negotiations of Iran sanctions legislation and passage of civilian assistance in Pakistan.
But his time on the Hill isn’t what made Lowenstein a good fit for the Podesta Group. Rather, it was his international networking experience.
“I know who to talk to to get the answers there, and that’s the main thing,” he said, citing countless trips to the Middle East and Asia at Kerry’s side. “One country where my experience is not going to be helpful — Afghanistan — I don’t think anyone is going to be looking to sell their widgets there.”
Lowenstein’s not all policy wonk, which is a valuable asset when making the downtown leap. He managed Kerry’s national security platform during the 2004 Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign and was a full-time lawyer in Boston for five years before that.
Lowenstein earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his law degree from Boston College, spending his third year of law school studying international law at Yale.
He’s the son of former Rep. Allard Lowenstein (D-N.Y.), a civil rights and anti-war leader who was murdered in his Manhattan office in 1980, a decade after serving one term as a Long Island Congressman.
Before joining Kerry’s campaign, Frank Lowenstein served as legislative assistant for foreign policy and defense issues for then-Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) from 1990 to 1994.
Lowenstein will be succeeded as the Foreign Relations panel’s staff director by William Danvers, who served most recently as a senior adviser to the undersecretary of defense for policy, according to a committee statement.