Former Aides Form New Shop

Posted May 13, 2003 at 6:12pm

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Two former aides to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) and GOP Conference Vice Chairwoman Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) have formed their own lobbying firm.

Dave Larson, a former health policy adviser to Frist, and Quin Dodd, Hutchison’s former legislative director, set up shop at the beginning of the month.

Among the firm’s clients are the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the city of El Paso, Texas.

Before Larson left Capitol Hill in May 2001 for the law firm Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn, he advised Frist on food and drug law as well as public health policy.

He also helped write the Children’s Health Act and the Public Threats and Emergencies Act in 2000, among other bills, while staffing Frist for the Senate

Health Education Labor and Pensions subcommittee on public health.

Dodd, who left Hutchison’s office in January 2002 for the law firm Bracewell & Patterson, advised the Lone Star State Senator on appropriations, health, education, energy and judiciary issues.

“We bumped into each other at a lunch and we talked about our situations at our firms,” Larson said, saying that both he at Dodd had always wanted to strike out on their own and form their own shops.

“We were on the same wavelength,” Dodd said, so the two decided that joining forces to form Larson Dodd LLC was the best course of action.

While they plan to concentrate on health care, appropriations and homeland security, they are interested in branching out into other areas.

The two said that while they do not foresee hiring more lobbyists anytime soon, they haven’t ruled out expanding their shop down the line.

Before starting in Hutchison’s office, Dodd worked as an appropriations counsel to then-Rep. Joe Skeen (R-N.M.).

Rational Exuberance. Patrick Dorton, a former Senate Democratic aide and staffer in the Clinton White House, is forming Rational Public Relations.

The new firm will specialize in strategic corporate communications as well as public affairs and crisis/litigation consulting.

Dorton knows a thing or two about crisis communications.

After serving as communications director for White House National Economic Council chief Gene Sperling during the last couple of years of the Clinton administration, Dorton took what was perceived to be a cushy gig as director of media relations for accounting giant Arthur Andersen LLP.

As the Enron scandal exploded and the accounting firm was brought to its knees by the ensuing controversy, however, Dorton quickly boosted his already impressive credentials as a crisis communicator. He wound up being quoted in more than 1,500 stories in the past year alone.

“Arthur Andersen was the perfect storm of corporate PR experience,” Dorton said in an interview. “It was trials, mergers, bankruptcy talk, CEO protection and Congressional hearings all at once.”

Dorton is eager to strike out on his own now and has already signed up an old boss, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), as a client. Dorton is overseeing public relations for the “Hear it From the Heartland” forums hosted by Harkin for the nine Democratic presidential candidates in the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus.

Dorton served as press secretary for Harkin from 1996 through 1999 after a stint with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). Other previous employers include the Democratic National Committee and Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) before the lawmaker switched parties and became a Republican.

ITI Snags Hill Aides, Sends One Back. The Information Technology Industry Council has attracted a crop of Congressional aides and bid adieu to one of its own.

Josh Ackil, Nick Kolovos and Scott Corley are coming to K Street to build the organization’s government relations program.

Ackil worked in the Senate Democratic leadership as a senior aide with the Democratic Steering Committee.

Before his tenure in the Senate, Ackil worked in the West Wing during the Clinton administration. He also has worked in the leadership office of former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.).

Kolovos served as a technology and telecommunications adviser to Silicon Valley’s Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

Corley comes to the high-tech trade association from Sen. George Allen’s (R-Va.) office, where he served as his boss’ eyes and ears on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Corley also worked with former Rep. Jim Rogan (R-Calif.) and Ken Mehlman, the current White House political director.

The trio will step in for ITI’s former vice president for government relations, Matthew Tanielian, who moved over to Cisco Systems, and Brian Adkins, who is now on the Hill serving as legislative counsel for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.).

ITI represents top U.S. providers of information technology products and services, including AOL Time Warner, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Sony and Sun Microsystems.

Gunning for a New Gig. Naomi Seligman, communications director for the pro-gun-control Violence Policy Center, will be heading up the public policy practice for the new Washington, D.C., office of RLM Public Relations, a New York-based public relations firm.

RLM will be teaming up with Venture Communications in a joint venture called RLM/Venture Communications.

Prior to joining the VPC in 2000, Seligman served stints as spokeswoman for Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.). She was also a professional staffer for the House Small Business Committee.