Lock in Those D’s

Posted May 4, 2007 at 6:21pm

Add Locke Liddell Strategies to the list of once all-GOP shops that have rejiggered their business plans since the elections brought Democrats to power on Capitol Hill. [IMGCAP(1)]

The firm just inked a deal with Mark Siegel, a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee and White House aide to President Jimmy Carter, to come aboard as partner. Siegel is the second Democrat to join the shop this year: Shane Doucet, a former aide to then-Rep. Chris John (D-La.), started in January.

“It has always been our intention to expand on the Democratic side,” said firm partner Roy Coffee, a former aide to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush. “With the results of last November, it was imperative for our clients to do that.”

In its short existence in Washington, D.C., the shop, an outpost of Texas-based law firm Locke Liddell & Sapp, has benefited from good timing, sometimes accidentally.

It was launched in early October 2005, the same week that Harriet Miers, the firm’s former co-manager in Dallas and then-White House counsel, was nominated for the Supreme Court.

At the time, Locke Liddell officials told Roll Call that they had been planning the rollout for months, and only found out about the Miers’ nomination when the official announcement was made. It was their first day at the new shop.

Miers’ bid, of course, met widespread opposition, and after withdrawing her name, she served another year in the Bush administration. She stepped down in January and this month returned to work at the firm, splitting her time between the Texas and Washington, D.C., offices.

Siegel comes to the firm from New Century Financial Corp., the subprime mortgage lending giant that collapsed this year in the face of criminal investigations and a wider industry meltdown. He was their sole lobbyist here, and he closed up the operation last week.

Locke Liddell booked $2.3 million in business last year, boasting clients such as Sempra Energy, Genworth Financial and FM Policy Focus, according to CQ PoliticalMoneyLine. It recently signed up R.J. Reynolds, Patient Services Inc. and West Asset Management.

So Close, Yet So Far … K Streeters watching the lobbying reform process could be forgiven for feeling like the finish line is a bit like the horizon: always a bit further away.

After all, it’s been more than four months since the House last acted on the issue — passing sweeping rules changes as a first step toward reform — and more than three months since the Senate approved its own comprehensive overhaul measure.

But aides and lobbyists close to negotiations say this week will finally return House lawmakers’ attention to the subject. The bill was still being drafted as of press time Friday, and work on it was expected to continue into the weekend.

The major hangup remains how to deal with disclosure of checks lobbyists bundle for candidates. Senators included a similar provision in the reform bill they passed in January, but the measure has stirred quiet resistance from lobbyists and lawmakers alike as House leaders mull how to match it.

Still, sources said the hope is for House Democratic leaders to come to a final decision on that and other outstanding items quickly and introduce the bill this week. A House Judiciary markup Friday or next Monday would set the stage for floor action next week, said a House Democratic aide.

We’ll believe it when we see it.

Short-Termer. Calling all Dems. After four months on the job as chief of staff to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sean Richardson finally gave in to the lure of K Street. The bipartisan Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart snagged Richardson, who previously served as chief of staff to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.).

The firm earlier this year picked up another chief of staff, Jonathan Jones, from the office of Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

“Jonathan Jones knew him, and people downtown suggested him,” said name partner Jeffrey Peck of the new hire. “He’s another person who fits very well into our culture. He’s a very savvy, senior guy.”

Peck said Richardson will come in handy to help with several new clients, including the Business Roundtable, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America and the Private Equity Council. Richardson is “going to be great servicing our existing clients and expanding our client base,” Peck said.

A Klobuchar spokeswoman said no replacement has yet been named, but Legislative Director Sheila Murphy is serving as acting chief of staff.

Overdrive. A long-running dispute over the value of the yen that pits Detroit automakers against their Japanese counterparts will take center stage this week at a House hearing held by three separate subcommittees. And the Japanese automakers — Toyota, Honda and Nissan — are working to deflect what they expect will be an attack from Detroit. The joint hearing includes subcommittees of the Financial Services, Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees.

Mike Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, said no one from his member companies or his association will testify, but “we are going to get dragged into it,” he said, because a General Motors economist is on the witness list.

“The debate is more focused on [currency manipulation by] China, but Japan gets caught up in the discussions because the Detroit Three are pushing for it,” Stanton said, pointing to the Detroit-friendly lawmakers on each of the committees including Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), who sits on Ways and Means.

“We’ll talk to some of the Members beforehand to make sure they understand the commitment these companies have to the United States,” Stanton said. “We’ll be getting that story out.”

Detroit’s message, though, is that the Japanese are still manipulating the value of their currency, and that gives Toyota, Honda and Nissan a competitive advantage.

“The Japanese have been engaged in a policy of active and consistent manipulation and management of their currency for more than five years, and it’s still going on in various forms,” said Stephen Collins, president of the Automotive Trade Policy Council, which speaks for Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler. Collins said the GM economist will represent all three companies’ view at the hearing.

“It’s been all China, all channels,” he said. “I understand that. The China effect is felt much more broadly across society.” But, he added, the Japan issue is like “a laser beam at Detroit.”

K Street Moves. Joseph Bogosian, who spent nearly six years in the Bush administration, has returned to the private sector as president of the aerospace and defense company SAFRAN USA. Bogosian, who previously was a lobbyist with McGuireWoods Consulting, worked at the Commerce Department and the Federal Aviation Administration. Bogosian will oversee government and public affairs and business affairs.