The Breaux Factor

Posted November 30, 2007 at 6:08pm

After snagging just-retired Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) in January 2005, the higher ups at Patton Boggs said recruiting Breaux to their firm had been their No. 1 priority. But after less than three years there, Breaux announced last week that he was starting his own shop with his son, John Breaux Jr. [IMGCAP(1)]

Patton Boggs now is scrambling to maintain some affiliation with Breaux and his new venture in order to keep hold of his considerable rainmaking prowess.

Patton Boggs managing partner Stuart Pape said he hopes they will come to an agreement. “I think we’ll likely remain, all of us, involved with all the clients,” he said.

Since coming off his one-year lobbying ban in early 2006, Breaux has registered to represent more than 20 clients at Patton Boggs, including the United States-India Business Council, Louisiana Economic Development, Verizon, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Wal-Mart Stores, Port of New Orleans and Cerberus Capital Management.

For 2007, Patton Boggs is on track to bring in nearly $40 million in lobbying fees. In 2004, the year before Breaux joined, the firm had $31 million in annual lobbying revenue.

At Patton Boggs, Breaux gained a reputation as a collegial figure and hard worker. But earlier this year, Breaux signaled that perhaps the firm wasn’t the place for him when he seriously considered running for governor of Louisiana, something he eventually didn’t do because he no longer lives in the state. Recently, rumors have persisted that Breaux and his son will team up with retiring

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who also has a lobbyist son, Chester Lott.

Several sources familiar with Patton Boggs said morale there is low and that Breaux has had his gripes about the bureaucratic structure of the firm. One source said Breaux wanted his son, who has been lobbying for several years, to join the firm, but he was not offered a job. Pape declined to comment on that.

At Patton Boggs, Breaux was surrounded by almost no one from his close-knit Senate office. A former aide, Diana Bostic, joined Patton Boggs with Breaux, but she departed earlier this year to become a lobbyist with the National Fisheries Institute. Breaux’s former top aide, Fred Hatfield, joined earlier this year but has since left to work for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign.

Sources said the firm is facing deeper issues than just the loss of Breaux. “There’s a real sense of drift and frustration with the current administration,” said one person familiar with the firm. Breaux, another source said, “wanted something smaller. [Patton Boggs] is a place where, when you start there, you kind of get dropped into the shark tank.”

Breaux could not be reached for comment.

Seeing Blue. They certainly weren’t the first shop to jump on the bipartisan lobbying wagon, but Lesher & Russell has so much faith in the move they are making room on their business cards.

The longtime all-Republican agriculture shop, which currently has six lobbyists and clients such as Altria, Pepsi and the United Fresh Produce Association, is hiring away 20-year Hill veteran Ed Barron from the Air Transport Association.

The firm will be renamed Lesher, Russell & Barron.

“We definitely wanted to hire someone who was a Democrat and who had strong Democratic ties,” Randy Russell said.

Barron, who most recently served as deputy chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), will join the firm in January just as his one-year lobbying ban is up.

Besides beefing up on their Democratic bonafides, the move also was a look to the future for the firm.

“Bill [Lesher] and I have known each other friends 30 years. We’ve been in business together almost 22 years, obviously we have to prepare for the future,” Russell said. “From this perspective we thought it was very good to bring in somebody in a transition period where they’d have an opportunity to work with our clients on a day-to-day basis.”

Toymakers or Joy-takers? With the holiday shopping season in full swing, and parents wringing their hands over a flood of imported product recalls, the toy industry is stepping up efforts to convince lawmakers it’s not the Grinch that stole Christmas. Hasbro — one of the world’s largest toy and game manufacturers — hired The Duberstein Group in late October to lobby on consumer product safety issues, “including lead paint in children’s toys,” according to a Senate filing. Last month, the Fashion Jewelry Trade Association, which has been stung by a recall of children’s jewelry, inked a deal with the Capitol City Group to help lobby on lead contamination issues. And the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association recently hired the team at Bryan Cave Strategies.

On the Trail. Filmmaker Jonathan Schneider, who has been screening his lobbyist/campaign finance documentary called “Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington,” has taken his movie to, where else, Iowa. Schneider said presidential hopeful Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) has promised to attend and answer students’ questions today at the University of Iowa event.

As K Street Files has already told you, the film includes such D.C. campaign finance celebs as Jan Baran and lobbyist Wright Andrews of Butera & Andrews. It also features porn stars, who perkily give a quick history of campaign finance laws. One of Schneider’s big disappointments about the film was never scoring an interview with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“Maybe I should have told the candidates it was a $5,000 PAC fundraiser,” Schneider said in a statement about trying to get the presidential hopefuls to watch his film.

K Street Moves. Shashrina Thomas, a former legislative director to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), has joined the lobby firm Stewart Partners as managing director of Congressional affairs and government marketing. Most recently, Thomas was with Keane Federal Systems, where she managed the company’s federal and state marketing efforts.

• After nearly three years at Capitol Solutions, Chris Parandian is launching what he calls a public affairs and new-media-focused communications firm. Parandian, who focuses on tech and telecommunications issues, also runs a blog called mobilediner.com.

Submit K Street Files tips here
.