Firms With Bush, GOP Ties Reel in New Clients

Posted January 3, 2005 at 6:55pm

On the morning of Nov. 3, hours before Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) conceded the election to President Bush, Republican lobbyist Drew Maloney received a phone call.

“It looks like the Republicans continue to be in charge,” an executive with a major financial services company told Maloney. “And we’re going to need some help over the next couple years.”

In the two months since Maloney took that call, 18 other potential clients have approached Maloney and his all-Republican firm, the Federalist Group, about inking lobbying contracts.

The Federalist Group is just one of a number of Republican-filled firms that have reported a surge of interest in recent weeks.

The Navigators, another all-Republican shop, have been contacted by 11 prospective clients since President Bush won re-election and the GOP strengthened its grip on Congress, said Cesar Conda, a partner with the firm.

“That is definitely not the normal pace,” Conda said. “They are coming much faster and they are coming unsolicited, which hardly ever happens.”

Other firms with strong ties to the Bush White House and Congressional Republicans have been flooded with calls, including Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock; Barbour Griffith & Rogers; Alexander Strategy Group; and Williams & Jensen.

“Life tends to gravitate to the living, and right now, we’re alive,” said Stewart Hall, another Republican with the Federalist Group.

Gregg Hartley, a Republican lobbyist with Cassidy & Associates, added that if lobbying firms “are going to have the reach that you have, you have to reflect the majority.”

Even before the election, K Street’s major all-Republican firms were outpacing their counterparts in growth. Between the first half of 2003 and the first half of 2004, they saw their lobbying revenues climb by nearly 50 percent, according to a Roll Call analysis of lobbying revenues.

Washington’s 25 biggest lobbying firms, by contrast, reported only 8 percent growth during the same period, though usually from a much bigger base.

Having a connected Republican in the corner office can open doors, lobbyists say, but cannot by itself close deals in Congress or the White House. So the GOP-heavy firms have also rolled up their sleeves and made donations, raised money and hit the campaign trail in support of Republican candidates.

Several lobbyists, spending out of pocket, reached the federal limit of $95,000 in federal campaign contributions, including Hartley of Cassidy & Associates, T.J. Petrizzo of Bockorny Petrizzo and Dan Mattoon of Podesta Mattoon. All three are bipartisan firms.

“We have an obligation to give back,” Mattoon said.

Several Democratic lobbyists at bipartisan firms also maxed out on their personal political contributions, such as Joel Jankowsky of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Jack Quinn of Quinn Gillespie & Associates. Both men gave exclusively to Democrats.

In addition to contributing their own money, Republican lobbyists encouraged others to pitch in. Employees of Akin Gump, who contributed a combined total of about $400,000 to Republicans, also helped raise nearly $5.6 million for their party and its candidates, said partner Bill Paxon.

Navigators partner Conda held a fundraiser for the Bush campaign that collected $120,000. He also served on a surrogate team for Bush, hitting the air waves to support the campaign.

Firms that have a bipartisan roster of lobbyists aren’t despairing: They’re touting the high-profile Republicans they have on staff.

Take Ed Gillespie. Few lobbyists are better positioned than Gillespie, now that he’s leaving his post as chairman of the Republican National Committee on the heels of a successful presidential re-election and landmark gains in Congress.

Gillespie is slated to return to Quinn Gillespie, the bipartisan firm he helped found in early 2000. Jack Quinn, his partner and a Democrat, predicted that Gillespie would be a “powerful magnet” for new business.

Ditto for Larry Harlow, the president of Timmons & Co., who took a leave of absence from his firm for six weeks to help put on the GOP convention in New York this summer.

Harlow headed a staff of more than 100 volunteers and fellow Washington lobbyists, including Dan Meyer and Henry Gandy of The Duberstein Group; Bill Timmons Jr. and John Kelliher of Timmons & Co.; Pat O’Donnell of Venable; Ed Ingle of Microsoft; and Gary Andres of The Dutko Group.

In an interview this spring, Harlow said his work for the GOP is “all about re-electing George Bush.” But he acknowledged that working for the convention can help himself and other lobbyists increase their influence in Washington.

“It’s good for each of us to validate your support for the party and the candidate. That’s good for your effectiveness,” he said.

Senior Democrats who work for bipartisan firms say they continue to be relevant because Senate Republicans are five seats short of a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority.

In addition, Democrats say, their experience and expertise in many cases trumps the fact their party is out of power.

“Everybody’s got somebody who knows somebody,” said Gary Andres, a Republican partner with the Dutko Group. “Part of it is experience, who’s been around for a while, and who knows how the system works.”

Indeed, since the election, the bipartisan firm Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates has finalized deals with five clients — New Holdings, the American Chemical Society, I-Tech, I-Save, and the candy manufacturer Mars, said Monty Tripp, a Republican at the firm.

In fact, there’s so much new business that the firm has been compelled to fill as many as four new positions, Tripp said.

The bipartisan firm Clark & Weinstock has also been touting experience, rather than partisan ties, as its strongest selling point, said former-Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), a partner at the firm.

“Most of the established firms have been anchored in important places with important people,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of fine-tuning.”