Sun ’n’ Shine? Shown ’n’ Seen?

Posted October 24, 2003 at 5:15pm

While many are still trying to pronounce the name, the newly created lobbying shop at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal has swelled into one of the fastest-growing practices in town.

Since opening its doors last summer, the firm has signed up dozens of clients, landed a few big-name hires, become a fundraising machine and rocketed into the ranks of Washington’s top lobbying shops.

In the first half of this year, Sonnenschein collected $2 million in lobbying fees, double its take from the previous six months.

Elliott Portnoy, head of the firm’s lobbying practice, expects to book about $4 million in lobbying revenues for the entire year.

That’s quite a climb. Just 14 months ago, the nearly 100-year-old firm did not have a single lobbyist among its 36 attorneys in Washington.

Sonnenschein now has 82 lawyers in D.C., including a health care practice acquired from Shaw Pittman and an information security and anti-piracy shop from Kirkland & Ellis.

This summer, the firm hired ex-Rep. Van Hilleary (R-Tenn.), and this fall it plans to add two more lobbyists, including a clerk from the House Appropriations Committee.

Sonnenschein’s lobbying practice has already inked deals with 56 clients and brought in enough revenue to rank No. 47 among the largest lobbying firms, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

Meanwhile, the firm has turned its PAC into the richest on K Street, contributing $105,000 to Congressional candidates so far this year — more than the 113 other law firms that have PACs.

Among Sonnenschein’s bigger clients are the creditors committees to United Airlines and Federal Mogul, which paid a combined $580,000 to the firm in the first six months of the year.

Still, many in Washington are just now getting familiar with the firm’s name. In the early days, says Portnoy, “We were called ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Sun and Shine’ and other names. But after doubling in size in 14 months, exponentially growing the size of the PAC, and getting involved in dozens of major legislative and policy initiatives, our name is now well-known.”

BCS Battle. Taking a page out of the House’s playbook, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing this week on what many see as a flaw in college football’s national championship series.

To prepare, a group of more than 50 small and mid-sized college football programs have hired Edelman Public Relations to help press their contention that the Bowl Championship Series is biased toward schools from the six largest conferences.

Since the BCS began, they point out, no college from a nonmajor conference — Conference USA, the Western Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt Conference — has been invited to a BCS game.

Edelman and the schools should have a good audience at Wednesday’s hearing: Three of the universities that say they face an unlevel playing field are based in Utah, home of the chairman of the hearing, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

But they face well-heeled opponents. With millions of dollars to lose, the nation’s six major conferences have drafted former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) to defend BCS on the Hill.

Livingston’s Fish Oil Client. A company cashing in on this past summer’s buzzworthy dietary craze — one that has celebrities and health nuts eating loads of salmon and popping plenty of fish oil pills — has enlisted former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) to promote the benefits of long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids.

The Livingston Group is working for Houston-based Omega Protein Corp. to educate policymakers regarding the industry that produces fish oil products from the menhaden fish and of its health benefits including better skin, decreased heart disease risk and better eye sight and hearing. The company, which produces various fish oil products from menhaden, is the nation’s largest processor of such Omega-3 fatty acids.

Hey, Everyone Needs a Lobbyist. Makers of silicone breast implants recently turned a few heads by winning initial approval from the FDA to return silicone implants to the market.

The victory came after a brief lobbying fight in Washington between a set of public interest groups and Inamed, the nation’s leading maker of silicone implants.

Public Citizen, the National Organization for Women, the National Center for Policy Research for Women and Families and a few other national organizations ran ads in Capitol Hill newspapers (including Roll Call) charging that silicone had not been scientifically proven to be safe. Currently, most implants are made of saline.

Meanwhile, Inamed hired Loeffler, Jonas & Tuggey lobbyist Dan Cohen to press the case that alleged health risks are unproven.

Omnicom Group Acquires Mercury. The global marketing and corporate communications conglomerate Omnicom Group has added the New York City-based Mercury Public Affairs, which has a federal government affairs practice.