Staying Put

Posted January 25, 2008 at 6:22pm

Downtown Democrats were left scratching their heads earlier this month when two top Wall Street trade associations — the Managed Funds Association and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association — named Republicans to fill their top jobs.

But the GOP picks were hardly flukes.

[IMGCAP(1)]One year into Democratic control of Congress, and with most indicators pointing to expanded dominance for the party, Republicans are proving surprisingly adept at hanging on to leading posts at trade groups.

At the end of last year, Mitch Bainwol, the former chief of staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who has headed the Recording Industry Association of America since 2003, had his contract extended through 2010, a spokeswoman for the group confirmed.

Likewise, Kyle McSlarrow, a former deputy energy secretary under President Bush and one-time top GOP Senate aide, isn’t budging as president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. At the end of 2006, the group decided to keep him at the helm through 2010, an NCTA spokesman said.

The National Association of Broadcasters, too, is keeping its Republican chief. David Rehr joined the group in December of 2005. And though he declined to discuss details, NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton confirmed that sometime since then, the association signed Rehr to a new multi-year contract.

This month, former Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) took the reins at COMPTEL, a trade group representing communications service providers, replacing another Republican, Earl Comstock, who headed to Comcast.

Russ Merbeth, a COMPTEL board member, said the association considered seeking out a Democrat. “But our major consideration was, ‘Who is the best available athlete for the job?’ … It ended up making a lot of sense to hire a known Republican, even in the current environment.”

Stepping Over to Steptoe. Johnston & Associates — the firm of former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) and his son, Hunter — is joining the fold of Steptoe & Johnson to build up the law firm’s lobbying enterprise.

The former Senator will remain with Johnston & Associates, but he will relocate to Steptoe’s offices, where he will have a “strategic affiliation.”

Hunter Johnston, Eric Tober and Proctor Jones, all formerly with Johnston & Associates, will join Steptoe.

“All our clients are coming with us,” said Hunter Johnston. Those clients include Exxon Mobil Corp., the Edison Electric Institute and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, among others.

The French communications conglomerate Publicis Groupe purchased a majority stake in Johnston & Associates in 2002, giving both Johnstons and Jones five-year employment contracts. That relationship ended last year, Hunter Johnston said.

Former Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Va.), the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also is with Steptoe.

Hunter Johnston said Johnston & Associates, which had annual revenues between $4 million and $5 million, has entertained offers from other firms since their Publicis deal ended. They selected Steptoe because of the opportunity to build a lobbying shop there, he said.

Happily Ever After. Hollywood scribes may be looking to lawmakers to help draft a happy ending to the writers strike. The Writers Guild of America, the union representing the striking screenwriters, recently brought on Margaret Cone to lobby for the group on Capitol Hill.

Cone has represented the writers guild before — working on copyright issues for the union in the mid-1990s — in addition to other artists’ groups, including the Recording Artists’ Coalition and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

These days, she splits her time between Washington, D.C., and New Haven, Conn., where she is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Yale Divinity School.

K Street Moves. Elmendorf Strategies, the all-Democratic lobbying firm started in December 2006, has added a fifth lobbyist: Rob Cogorno, who spent 25 years as a staffer in the House and Senate. Cogorno most recently served as floor director to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

• Zead Haddad, formerly a senior policy advisor at the Energy Department, has joined B&D Consulting as a vice president.

• Jeffrey J. Kimbell & Associates, a health care lobbying firm, has added Jennifer Vesey as vice president of government affairs and policy. Previously, Vesey had launched the D.C. office of MGI Pharma.

• Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti has promoted Kelly Rucker Bingel to partner in the lobbying firm. Bingel, a former chief of staff to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), joined the shop in 2005.

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