A Jolt of Electricity
Andrew Lundquist Traded Years of Government Experience for a Booming Energy Lobbying Practice
Much attention has focused on the Bush-Cheney administration’s often-secretive efforts to define the nation’s energy policy. But regardless of who was actually sitting in the controversial energy task force meeting in 2001, lobbyist Andrew Lundquist has arguably done as much as anyone to shape national energy policy.
Though he’s not exactly a household name beyond energy circles, Lundquist has seemingly been everywhere. Undergirding his rise was a reputation for knowing energy issues inside and out.
During 14 years on Capitol Hill, Lundquist worked on energy issues on every level, serving as a Senate legislative assistant and a counsel and later a majority staff director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Then, in 2001, Lundquist was tapped by the White House to serve as director of the National Energy Policy Development Group, the Cabinet-level task force that produced President Bush’s energy plan. By October that year, Lundquist was serving as Vice President Cheney’s director of energy policy.
“There’s nothing I don’t work on in energy,” he said in a recent interview.
Since joining the private sector in 2002, Lundquist’s Capitol Hill and White House experience has not only propelled his lobbying shop, the Lundquist Group, but it also has made possible a new joint lobbying venture he started earlier this year. The new lobbying firm, Blackwell Fairbanks, is run by Lundquist and Joe Allbaugh, his office suitemate and fellow lobbyist who was the national campaign manager for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000.
Blackwell Fairbanks is a specialized firm designed to take advantage of opportunities presented by Lundquist and Allbaugh’s separate lobbying shops. Although neither the Lundquist Group nor Blackwell Fairbanks’ work is limited solely to energy issues, Lundquist acknowledges that “energy has been a great niche for me.”
In 2003, the Lundquist Group did more than $300,000 in business with such energy companies as TXU Corp. and Duke Energy. And just months after opening Blackwell Fairbanks, he already has snagged aircraft construction giant Lockheed Martin as the new shop’s first client. (Its name sounds like a white-shoe law firm, but Blackwell Fairbanks actually takes its name from Allbaugh’s and Lundquist’s hometowns of Blackwell, Okla., and Fairbanks, Alaska.)
Lundquist is so well connected in the Washington energy scene that earlier this year he was the subject of a front-page story in the Boston Globe that questioned whether enough time had passed for the former White House employee to now work in the lobbying world.
Current laws state that lobbyists must have a one-year waiting period before lobbying their former co-workers.
“Lundquist’s behind-the-scenes role as policy coordinator, vice presidential aide, and ultimately as a lobbyist for energy companies highlights some of the concerns that have led consumer groups to seek the opening of the task force’s records,” the Boston Globe story said, referring to the Supreme Court case brought by environmental groups to open the task force’s records.
Lundquist responds that “I stuck to the letter of the law in ethics rules.” The court cases “really had nothing to do with energy — they had to do with preservation of the president’s prerogative” on how he forms policy and who he receives advice from, Lundquist said.
But some government watchdog groups continue to worry about the kind of access a former high-level government employee like Lundquist has.
“There is a classic revolving door between the government and private lobbyists, and what people like Lundquist trade off of is their access,” said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “It creates a real appearance problem. The one-year buffer is somewhat of a joke, and then they just go back and lobby their former friends and co-workers.”
Lundquist got his start in the energy world in the office of his home-state Senator, Ted Stevens (R).
“Stevens taught me really how to legislate and in a broader sense how to work in Washington, D.C.,” Lundquist said. Stevens “really was my early mentor. … He’s one of the hardest working Senators and he demands a lot of himself and his staff.”
The two men share many connections, Lundquist said, including a home. In the early 1950s, when Stevens was moving to Alaska to practice law, the future Senator actually moved into the house Lundquist’s parents were leaving in Fairbanks.
Lundquist’s seven years in Stevens’ office, where he eventually served as senior legislative assistant, led him to a job with Stevens’ fellow Alaska Senator, Frank Murkowski (R).
With Murkowski, who’s now Alaska’s governor, Lundquist’s assignments ran the gamut from committee work to running campaigns and serving as chief of staff for two years. For three years while Murkowski served as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lundquist was responsible for committee agenda setting, strategic planning and budget decisions in his role as staff director.
In addition to drawing on his own resources, Lundquist has begun to assemble a team of experienced Hill veterans to expand his work.
After starting the Lundquist Group, his first big hire was Howard Useem, who had served for 24 years as the senior professional staff member on the Senate Energy panel.
Lundquist is planning to expand his lobbying practices beyond energy to telecommunications. His most recent hire, Tim Kurth, should help in that area. Before joining Lundquist last month, Kurth had been a policy adviser to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), specializing in telecommunications, intellectual property, technology, financial services and tax policy.
“We complement each other well,” Kurth said of his work with the House leadership and Lundquist’s with Senate leaders. And with Stevens expected to take on the chairmanship of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee soon, Lundquist said his group will be in a good position to expand the shop’s business.
Meanwhile Lundquist also plans to use his new manpower to expand Blackwell Fairbanks with Allbaugh.
Allbaugh, an energy and defense consultant, said that between his work with state chief executives and agency management — including his tenure as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency — and Lundquist’s Hill background, the two “have the right type of synergies.”
Their shared friendship, forged during then-Gov. George W. Bush’s run for office in 2000, and their shared office suite at 101 Constitution Ave. NW allow the two to easily mix and match manpower for specific needs. For instance, Allbaugh is well positioned in the homeland security market.
In the meantime, Lundquist’s first passion will continue to be energy issues. The energy bill he helped create while working at the White House is still stalled in Congress, but Lundquist is sure the country’s need to pass a comprehensive energy bill is only going to make his lobbying niche all the more important in the future.
“In 2005, hopefully, we can return to a place where energy is less political and more regional,” Lundquist said. “And that’s where it should be. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”