Bainwol in Line for RIAA Post

Posted July 25, 2003 at 6:30pm

Mitch Bainwol, the former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), is in final negotiations with the recording industry’s Washington trade association to become one of the best-paid lobbyists in town.

According to sources close to the situation, Bainwol is seriously considering accepting an offer to become the head of the Recording Industry Association of America, replacing Hilary Rosen, who left the powerful post earlier this month.

Bainwol and RIAA board members spent the past week trading offers and counteroffers, and an agreement has not been finalized.

But sources said the deal, which is all but done, would pay Bainwol as much as $1 million a year.

Bainwol helped engineer the GOP campaign that took back control of the Senate in 2002 as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Fresh off that win, Bainwol was set to start his own lobbying firm on K Street but was pulled back to public service by Frist, who unexpectedly became Majority Leader.

Bainwol left Frist again this spring after helping to set up the leadership office in the hurried days after Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) gave up the top leadership post. The GOP strategist had finally gotten his K Street firm off the ground, but it now looks like he will be shutting down again to take the recording industry post.

Bainwol is expected to beat out some of Washington’s biggest names, including former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) and Republican operative and AOL communications strategist John Buckley.

Reps. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) also were mentioned for the job, though each denied that they were under serious consideration.

Others considered for the post included former White House spokesman Mike

McCurry, one-time Republican National Committee Chairman Rich Bond and former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

Each was eliminated during a lengthy search process that stretched for a month after Rosen vacated the position.

At one point even Bainwol was eliminated from the list of candidates. After an initial interview, Bainwol took his name out of consideration.

At the time, he said he was never under serious consideration. Instead, he decided to focus on developing his own lobbying shop, the Bainwol Group.

But Republican insiders persuaded him to reconsider his decision, which he did.

Bainwol’s move is sure to disappoint the growing number of A-list clients he had built in his few months on K Street.

According to the most recent lobbying disclosure forms, Bainwol had signed up to help Freddie Mac on legislation to rein in the mortgage giant. He also signed up the American Immune Association and the American Insurance Association on asbestos reform legislation.

Other clients include St. Paul, Oracle and U.S. Oncology.

Accepting the RIAA post may also make it more difficult for Bainwol to play a key behind-the-scenes role in Republican politics.

Bainwol was expected to work for a gubernatorial campaign in Illinois and help raise money for Republicans in Washington.

Last fall, after campaign finance reform legislation banned soft-money contributions to the national political parties, Bainwol laid plans to start a fundraising committee designed to raise money to help Republican Senatorial candidates.

Although the plans have yet to get off the ground, Bainwol continued to lay the groundwork for the organization as recently as last month.

Following through with that plan may prove to be difficult if Bainwol takes the reins of an association that represents such politically neutral companies as Sony, EMI, Bertelsmann and Warner Music and Universal-Vivendi.

Still, the Republican who started the shadow fundraising committee for House Republicans, GOP insider Susan Hirschmann, and former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), are both lobbyists as well.