Abramoff Lands Consulting Gig at Cassidy

Posted March 23, 2004 at 6:31pm

Embattled Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff landed a consulting job Tuesday with powerhouse Washington lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates in a deal that could help both sides weather troubled times.

Cassidy, the No. 2 firm on K Street last year, hired Abramoff to help recruit new business. He will not have an office at Cassidy, and he will not lobby on behalf of clients.

“His job is to refer business,” said Aimee Steel, a spokeswoman for Cassidy.

Abramoff was forced to resign from his lobbying post with Greenberg Traurig LLC earlier this month and now stands at the center of a Senate investigation into the exorbitant lobbying fees he charged a string of American Indian tribes.

Steel said Cassidy is not concerned that the investigation into its new hire would sully the firm.

“We place great importance on ethical and professional standards,” she said.

Cassidy has seen its lobbying business decline for several years, dropping it from its perennial perch as Washington’s top-grossing firm.

By joining forces, Abramoff and his new firm could return to the top of their games.

Abramoff brought in an astounding $11.3 million worth of business in 2003, according to figures provided by Abramoff and Greenberg Traurig.

If Abramoff can persuade just a handful of his clients to sign lobbying contracts with his new firm, Cassidy & Associates will rocket past Patton Boggs LLC and reclaim its crown as king of K Street.

So far, at least one of Abramoff’s dozen clients from last year has agreed to remain with Abramoff.

“We are very happy with Jack Abramoff,” said Alton LeBlanc Jr., chairman of Louisiana’s Chitimacha Tribe, which signed a $120,000-a-year contract with Abramoff in 2000 when he was with his previous firm, Preston Gates.

“When he was with Preston Gates, we were very happy with his services,” said LeBlanc. “If he is associated with Greenberg Traurig, so be it. If it’s some other firm, OK. If it takes an agreement with another firm to get him, so be it.”

Abramoff is sure to retain other clients. However, he has already lost several of his most lucrative clients of 2003.

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan terminated a lobbying contract with Abramoff after the tribe ousted its government at the end of 2003.

The Saginaw tribe was Abramoff’s richest client last year, paying him $2.2 million to represent their interests in Washington.

The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, another million-dollar client, is in the middle of a dispute over its leadership that may catapult Abramoff.

Meanwhile, Tyco International has decided that it will remain with Greenberg Traurig, according to spokesman David Polk.

Tyco, which came under fire in Washington for moving its headquarters offshore to Bermuda, paid Abramoff $1.3 million to represent the firm last year, according to lobbying disclosure forms.

Two other top clients, Hong Kong-based Rose Garden Holdings ($140,000 in fees last year) and the American International Center ($100,000) severed their contracts with Abramoff months ago for reasons unrelated to his departure from Greenberg Traurig this month.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) began an investigation after it was disclosed that Abramoff recommended that four of his American Indian clients pay $31 million more than three years to his friend and former colleague Michael Scanlon for political work.

In turn, an organization run by Scanlon, the American International Center, paid Abramoff $1.7 million for lobbying work.

Despite his new contract with Cassidy, Abramoff will likely spend much of his time over the next few weeks working on his legal case as well as his various side businesses, such as a diet book he hopes to write.

A longtime confidant of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and the GOP leadership, Abramoff was brought into Cassidy by Gregg Hartley, a former top aide to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).