Now Departing: United Lobbyists

Posted March 11, 2003 at 5:55pm

By filing for bankruptcy in the past year, UAL’s United Airlines caused turbulence for more than just the thousands of employees and millions of customers who rely on the nation’s leading airline.

The move has also caused a ripple effect on K Street. Since the December filing, United has been unable to pay more than $110,000 in fees to a handful of outside lobbying firms that represent the embattled corporation on Capitol Hill and the administration.

According to claim forms filed in an Illinois bankruptcy court handling the case, United has yet to pay four firms a total of $113,168 for work performed last fall.

United owes $26,931 to Tony Podesta and Dan Mattoon of Podesta Mattoon; $37,401 to Gerchick-Murphy and former Federal Aviation Administration counsel Mark Gerchick; and more than $20,000 to former Sen. Bob Packwood’s (R-Ore.) Sunrise Research Corp. United also owes Holland & Knight $28,758, according to the filings.

United officials and the individual lobbying firms declined to discuss the matter. But other lobbyists in the industry said the firms were not paid for work they did on United’s unsuccessful bid for federal loan guarantees.

In other words, when the federal government rejected United’s application for emergency loans, the company filed for bankruptcy — and stiffed the very lobbyists who worked on the application.

“After the bankruptcy, if you had bills that hadn’t been processed or checks that hadn’t been cashed, you were screwed,” said one lobbyist.

Meanwhile, industry sources say the airline giant has shed a load of its Washington lobbyists since the bankruptcy filing.

Before the bankruptcy filing, United employed as many as 16 outside lobbying firms.

In the first six months of last year, United spent $1.7 million on its Washington lobbying team, including more than $1.1 million on in-house lobbyists, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

Among outside firms, the airline employs Strategic Advisors, the lobbying shop founded by former Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), the onetime chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Ann Eppard Associates and the Palmetto Group.

A spokesman for United declined to name the firms that have been let go, other than to say that the company has been “under enormous cost pressure” of late.

Here are some recent filings of new clients on K Street reported to the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate. The files were culled by PoliticalMoneyLine.com:

City/County

Howard Marlowe just might have the greatest job in Washington: He works on beaches.

Unfortunately for Marlowe, the job does not entail kicking back in a lounge chair and soaking up the sun.

Instead, Marlowe and his firm, Marlowe & Co., represent two dozen city- and county-owned beaches seeking funds to restore their luster from New York to Florida and Texas to California.

Marlowe, who specializes in representing cities and counties, said most of his clients are communities with beaches seeking funds for periodic makeovers.

Two of his most recent clients, North Carolina’s Carolina Beach and Florida’s Martin County, want a total of $15 million for projects ranging from dredging to building new jetties.

To get the help they need, the beaches need U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earmarks in this year’s Energy and Water spending bill.

Communications/Technology

Acxiom Corp. has signed a contract with Patton Boggs in order to push its technology on transportation and homeland security initiatives

Meanwhile, Podesta Mattoon filed an unusual report indicating that it has signed up to lobby for the the Sci-Fi Channel to monitor the federal response to the “appearance of unidentified aerial phenomena in U.S. airspace.”

Finance/Insurance

Though the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was intended to reign in Wall Street, it is paying dividends for at least one lobbying firm on K Street.

Thelen Reid & Priest filed reports with the Senate last month to lobby on behalf of a group of major financial players on legislation affecting the industry.

According to the forms, the firm works for Deloitte & Touche, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Freddie Mac, Ernst & Young, E*Trade Financial, the Investment Company Institute, KPMG and the Boston Stock Exchange.