Greenberg Traurig Loses Big-Time Lobbyist

Posted May 7, 2004 at 4:32pm

The hemorrhaging continues at Greenberg Traurig.

Two months after the firm dumped heavyweight Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, another one of the its top rainmakers has left. [IMGCAP(1)]

Gary Shiffman begins today at the Homeland Security Department following a short — but profitable — career at Greenberg.

Shiffman may not have the same name recognition enjoyed by Abramoff — the former Greenberg lobbyist now under Senate investigation for the exorbitant fees he charged several American Indian clients — but he did just as much to spark the firm’s meteoric rise to one of Washington’s richest lobbying firms.

And he shared Abramoff’s lust for pricey, multimillion-dollar lobbying contacts.

It was Shiffman — not Abramoff — who landed several of the most expensive K Street paydays in years.

An aide to former Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), Shiffman brought in more than $5 million in lobbying fees for Greenberg Traurig during his three years with the firm.

Shiffman, a pioneer in an emerging Washington field representing victims of terrorism, helped clients collect massive court judgments after being tortured or killed by foreign dictators.

He made a splash by recording a $4.2 million, one-time payment for helping hundreds of American terrorism victims collect $116 million in damages from now-deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Shiffman secured their payment — and his — by adding a provision into a terrorism reinsurance bill that enables his clients to tap into nearly $2 billion in frozen Iraqi assets to collect their damages.

Shiffman’s departure is just the latest for Greenberg Traurig. Since Abramoff left in March, a half-dozen lobbyists from the firm have moved on.

Three former Greenberg Traurig colleagues — Todd Boulanger, Jim Hirni and Shana Telser — joined Cassidy & Associates, where Abramoff landed a consulting job.

Meanwhile, lobbyist Duane Gibson has left the firm and Stephanie Leger-Short has joined the DCI Group.

Fred Baggett, the head of the firm’s government affairs practice, said the firm will not be hampered by the departures.

“Our core group of lawyers and lobbyists remain in place and we will continue to add to our growing practice in the coming months.”

Chairmen Flying High. Two powerful House committee chairmen hitched rides this year on private planes owned by companies that do business before their panels. But at least they reimbursed the companies for their trouble.

According to new campaign finance reports compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine.com, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) paid FedEx $4,522 this year for trips on the package carrier’s corporate jet.

Meanwhile, former Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) paid US Tobacco for two trips on the company’s private plane.

NFIB Retains Former Aide. A few years after leaving the National Federation of Independent Business, Mark Isakowitz is once again lobbying for the nation’s small-business association.

Isakowitz and his firm, Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, have been tapped by the NFIB to lobby on health care legislation on Capitol Hill, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

During nearly five years working for NFIB in the mid-1990s, Isakowitz served as the small-business group’s chief lobbyist for the House, making a name for himself on health care issues.

But this time around, Isakowitz said, Kate Hull — a former aide with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — will take the lead on NFIB issues for Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock.

Looking for a New Job? With Republicans firmly in control of Washington, Democrats are not exactly the best-placed people to help Hill aides find work on K Street.

But as it happens, Leslie Gordon, the wife of Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), is a senior executive at Korn Ferry International — a leading head-hunting firm that has placed scores of Congressional aides in high-paying K Street jobs.

Leslie Gordon has been with Korn Ferry since 1996 and splits her time between the firm’s Washington and New York offices.

Unfortunately for aspiring lobbyists biding their time on the Hill, Gordon specializes in finding jobs on Wall Street. She heads up the firm’s corporate and investment-banking section, an area that has been her specialty since before she met her husband in the late 1990s.

So does Gordon do an occasional search for K Street types? “Not now, not ever,” she responded.