Maki’s Back in Town

Posted March 21, 2007 at 6:33pm

Democratic lobbyist and political strategist Butch Maki, a close confidant of presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), recently expanded his Santa Fe, N.M.-based firm by opening offices in Washington, D.C., and New Hampshire. [IMGCAP(1)]

Maki’s decision to open a D.C. office is a direct result of the Democrats taking control of Congress, with the individuals he hired to staff the office primarily representing energy and health care industry clients.

He opened his New Hampshire office because of his friendship with Richardson and his role as informal adviser to the governor’s presidential campaign. Maki, a 59-year-old New Hampshire native, said he expects Richardson to do well in the nation’s first presidential primary and predicted the governor will be No. 3 in the polls there by sometime this summer.

“I was going to semi-retire until the Democrats took over the House and Senate and [Richardson] decided to run for president,” Maki said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “I’m not officially part of the campaign. But I’m a close friend, and wherever I see things need to get done, I jump in and do it to help him out.”

Maki was Richardson’s district director for most of Richardson’s Congressional career and the presidential contender was the best man at Maki’s wedding in the early 1990s.

Maki bought a home in New Hampshire last year. His family goes back 100 years in the Granite State, and several members of his extended family still live there.

The lobbyist said candidly that the focus of his New Ipswich, N.H., office is aiding Richardson’s presidential campaign. The two people working for him there are on contract.

However, he hired three full-time lobbyists for his D.C. digs, including two with whom he worked in Richardson’s Congressional office.

Jeanne Wilton and Elaine Ziemba both worked in Richardson’s House office. Before being hired by Maki, Wilton had taken time off to raise her children, working prior to that for AdvaMed and Cassidy & Associates. Ziemba previously was with the American Gas Association and Northern States Power. Maki also hired David Freer, formerly a vice president of Sempra Energy, for his Washington office.

While Maki did lobby Congress throughout former President Bill Clinton’s tenure, this marks the first time his firm has staffed an office in Washington.

Previously, Maki did the work himself and commuted back and forth from New Mexico. He said his lobbying work in D.C. became scarce after President Bush took office.

“After Clinton left office, the work dried up because of the K Street” Project, Maki said.

Still, he said his firm continued to grow, mainly on the strength of clients who hired him to lobby the state governments of New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. Maki runs a full-service lobbying shop out of his Santa Fe headquarters, with a staff of 15.

With All Deliberate Speed. Greg Speed, a former communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is joining the D.C.-based government relations firm Kelley Drye Collier Shannon. Speed will do some lobbying himself and will head some of the firm’s grass-roots campaigns.

After working at the DCCC in the 2004 election cycle, Speed spent the past two years at Communities for Quality Education, a political and grass-roots entity connected to the National Education Association. Previously he worked as legislative assistant and press secretary to then-Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas).

Desert Rumblings. Maria Weeg has been named executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, after serving since 2004 in the same post for the Idaho Democratic Party.

Before running the Idaho Democratic Party, Weeg was the organization’s coordinated campaign field director. The Arizona Democratic Party is touting Weeg’s experience in the West as an asset, even though she is new to Arizona.

“We are thrilled to get a strong Western talent on our team,” state Democratic Party Chairman David Waid said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Republican Party has been restaffing in the wake of some personnel defections that occurred after new Chairman Randy Pullen took over. The new key hires include:

• Sean McCaffrey, to be executive director. Previously he was a senior vice president with Wilson Research Strategies and a partner with McNeill Klock McCaffrey Strategies.

• Brett Mecum, to be communications director. Previously he served as deputy political director of NoInternetTax.org, and founded the consulting firm Mecum & Associates.

• Maureen Donovan, to be finance director. Previously she was the assistant director for the GOP leader of the New York state Assembly.

Sellers’ Market. Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) has a new communications director for his gubernatorial campaign. Jindal has lured Melissa Sellers back to the Pelican State — where she spent some time as a child.

In the previous election cycle, Sellers was press secretary to then-Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) in his unsuccessful campaign for Senate. She also has worked as press secretary to former Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa).

Jindal is making his second gubernatorial run this year. The campaign was jolted by Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s (D) announcement Tuesday that she would not seek a second term.

Gosh Darn It, People Like Her, Too. Jess McIntosh is leaving the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to join comedian Al Franken’s (D) fledgling Senate campaign.

McIntosh, currently the communications director for the Minnesota DFL, is joining the Franken campaign’s press shop.

Franken, who spent the past few years as a talk show host for the Air America network, is seeking the Democratic nomination for the right to challenge Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) next year.

Plumbing Local Connections for Fun and Profit. Speaking of Minnesota, the 2008 Republican presidential nominating convention has spawned Twin Cities Strategies, a GOP consulting firm designed to help political organizations and corporate interests achieve their public relations objectives at the St. Paul, Minn., event.

Partners in the new firm include lobbyist and former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.); Republican National Committeeman from Minnesota Jack Meeks; Washington, D.C.-based event planner Shelley Hymes; Annette Meeks, who served as deputy chief of staff to former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); GOP activist Joe Weber; and Greg Johnson, a businessman and confidant of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R).

LaSure Thing. Allyn Brooks-LaSure is leaving the office of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to join the Save Darfur Coalition as director of media relations.

Brooks-LaSure’s first day on the job is Monday. He is being replaced in Menendez’s office by Afshin Mohamadi, who currently serves as communications director for Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). Mohamadi worked in the same capacity for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and for Van Hollen’s first House campaign in 2002.

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.