K Street Files: Faris to Retire from NFIB; First Full-Timer Hired for K Street Project

Posted March 17, 2005 at 3:39pm

After 13 years at the helm of the National Federation of Independent Business, Jack Faris officially announced that he will step down one year from now.

Faris, 62, has been based at NFIB headquarters in Nashville, but was a frequent visitor to Washington.

An NFIB search committee tasked with finding the influential small-business group’s next chief executive plans to interview search firms next week.

In an interview, Faris said the hunt for his replacement likely will take eight or nine months.

“I just wanted to give them plenty of time,” he said. “The time to retire is when an organization can best handle the transition.”

He added, “We don’t have to find anyone to fix NFIB.”

Faris said the NFIB has accomplished many victories for its members during his tenure and had assembled a “great team across the country.” Faris singled out Dan Danner, who was recently elevated to the post of executive vice president of public policy and political.

“Dan Danner and his folks in Washington — they’re the cream of the crop,” Faris said.

Before joining NFIB, Faris worked at his family’s small business and served as finance director for the 1978 Tennessee gubernatorial campaign of Lamar Alexander (R), who now serves as a Senator. From 1978 to 1981, Faris was executive director of the Republican National Committee.

One successful NFIB grass-roots effort, Faris said, was the defeat of President Bill Clinton’s health care plan. NFIB members “got pretty excited about that,” he recalled.

Faris — whose motto is, “if you run a business, you better get involved in politics, or politics will run your business” — said NFIB’s issues for the coming year include a push for association-sponsored health plans and keeping tabs on the progress of President Bush’s Social Security reform efforts.

Going Full Time. The K Street Project has long been considered an evil empire by Democratic lobbyists. And that was before it hired its first full-time staffer.

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist has tapped Sarah Smith, a former College Republican team leader and field representative for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, to be the first manager of the project, which is run out of the office of Norquist’s Washington-based group, Americans for Tax Reform.

The K Street Project is designed to install loyal Republicans in the top downtown lobbying jobs.

ATR Communications Director Christopher Butler said the move to hire a full-time staffer will help the group put out frequent — sometimes daily — updates about who is moving where through the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbying world.

“We want to expand its ability to be an information source on who’s moving where in town and what sort of forces are affecting that,” Butler said.

Norquist, himself a college Republican in younger days, has also added a scheduling director to handle the pesky task of keeping track of his calendar: Carrie Hale, a former scheduler to Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and then-Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) and a one-time special assistant to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Hanging Up. After seven years with the telecommunications trade group CompTel/ALTS, CEO Russell Frisby Jr. is leaving Friday.

Frisby first announced his departure late last year. Drew Walker, the former president of business services at ITC DeltaCom, will run the group while a search committee looks for a permanent replacement.

The association, which represents small and emerging telecom companies, has expressed opposition to the proposed mergers by telecom giants SBC with AT&T and Verizon with MCI.

Ironically enough, CompTel/ALTS itself is the result of a newly minted merger between CompTel/ASCENT and the Association for Local Telecommunications Services.