Patton Boggs Tops on K St.

Posted February 24, 2004 at 6:36pm

Lobbying shop Patton Boggs replaced Cassidy & Associates as king of K Street last year while the rest of Washington’s largest firms continued to grow at impressive rates in 2003, according to Roll Call’s annual survey of lobbying fees.

The Top 25 firms of 2003 reported $351 million in lobbying revenues, a $46.7 million jump from the fees reported by the largest shops the previous year.

That’s a 15 percent climb in 2003 — slightly less than the 16 percent increase from the previous year but still a significant rise during a period of uncertain U.S. economic growth.

“Lobbying in Washington is recession-proof,” said Celia Wexler of Common Cause. “No matter what the economy is doing, lobbying continues to grow — and grow at a healthy pace.”

However, some lobbyists predicted that K Street would cool off this year as Members of Congress focus on this fall’s presidential and Congressional elections.

“The year before a presidential election is always a big year because nothing gets done in an election year,” said Steve Hart of seventh-ranked Williams & Jensen.

The Roll Call survey is based on lobbying fees reported to Congress as required by the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act. Those figures exclude fees received for other work, such as grassroots campaigns and public relations efforts.

According to the lobbying fees filed with Congress, powerhouse Patton Boggs added nearly $4 million in proceeds in 2003 to help it overtake perennial K Street leader Cassidy & Associates as the most successful lobbying firm over the course of the year.

Patton Boggs was aided by lucrative contacts with MCI WorldCom, Mars Inc., Time Warner and Wal-Mart.

Cassidy saw its lobbying fees drop for the third straight year after holding on to the top slot since 2000.

Lobbyists at Cassidy say they are turning more of their efforts to helping pitch their clients’ homeland security products to federal agencies. Revenues for marketing to the federal government are not required to be reported to Congress.

If those revenues were included, Cassidy would have reported $33.6 million in fees last year, according to spokeswoman Aimee Steel.

Meanwhile, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld held on to the No. 3 slot for the third straight year with a 20 percent increase in revenues to $26.7 million.

No. 4 Greenberg Traurig and No. 5 Van Scoyoc Associates continued their march up the rankings with the help of 44 percent and 17 percent respective increases in revenues.

Piper Rudnick, the fourth-largest firm in 2002, fell to No. 6 last year after shedding nearly $3 million in fees, dropping it to $18 million for the year.

In 2000, the firm’s lobbying operation — then part of Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson & Hand— was the second-largest Washington shop with $23.5 million in billings.

Williams & Jensen declared the largest percentage gain among the Top 10 firms, allowing them to climb a rung to No. 7 on the list.

Boosted by hefty fees from financial services firms seeking to renew the Fair Credit Reporting Act, revenues for Williams & Jensen jumped 40 percent to $17.1 million, according to the firm.

Likewise, fees for both Hogan & Hartson and Quinn Gillespie & Associates climbed 30 percent to land them in the No. 8 and No. 9 positions, respectively.

The gain for Quinn Gillespie & Associates was notable because the firm operated for more than half the year without their star GOP lobbyist, Ed Gillespie, who left to become chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Rounding out the Top 10 list was Washington Council Ernst & Young, which slid from the ninth position in 2002 despite adding $500,000 in revenue.

Among the rest of the Top 25 list, Swidler Berlin Sheriff Friedman reported the biggest leap, more than tripling its revenues to $11.2 million after taking the lead role in a pricey fight over reforming asbestos lawsuits.

Swidler Berlin represents the Asbestos Study Group, a coalition of manufacturers that includes General Electric, Honeywell, General Motors, Dow Chemical and a host of other companies mired in asbestos litigation.

Meanwhile, Barbour, Griffith & Rogers fell to No. 14 from No. 7 after the departure of former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour, now the governor of Mississippi.

The firm saw revenues fall $1.6 million last year to $11.1 million.

Podesta Mattoon also dropped, from No. 14 to No. 17, even thought the firm’s fees grew by $600,000 last year.

Clark Consulting Federal Policy Group leaped from No. 23 to No. 15 with the help of a 62 percent increase in fees to $11 million.

Clark Consulting, led by former Ways and Means Committee aide Ken Kies, specializes in tax legislation.

Meanwhile, Preston Gates & Ellis came agonizingly close to what would have been a triumphant return to the ranks of top Washington firms after falling on lean times in the past few years.

The firm added 36 new clients last year on its way to a 33 percent increase in revenues — but fell just off the list to the No. 26 position.

In 2000, Preston Gates was the sixth-largest firm in Washington with $10.5 million in fees. But revenues were sliced in half when partner Jack Abramoff left the firm and took his lucrative book of contacts to Greenberg Traurig.

Last year, Preston Gates reported $7.2 million in fees, up from $5.4 million in 2002, according to the survey.

The No. 25 firm, Berger Bockorny Castagnetti & Hawkings, reported $7.4 million in revenues.