Hastert Follows Wynn, Joins Dickstein Shapiro

Posted May 30, 2008 at 5:47pm

Former Speaker Dennis Hastert is performing a legislative encore of sorts.

The Illinois Republican is making a political comeback — this time working downtown at the law firm Dickstein Shapiro.

Hastert will join Dickstein today as a senior adviser focusing on legislative and regulatory counseling. At least two of his former senior staffers are expected to join him, according to sources close to the deal.

“What attracted him to our firm, I think, is our substantial energy practice and expertise,” said Andrew Zausner, head of the firm’s lobbying practice. “He has a long-time interest in energy policy and indeed believes it’s the single most important policy issue for the next 30 years.”

The move puts Hastert, a one-time member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, back in the political limelight for the first time since he left office on Nov. 26, 2007.

Zausner does not expect Hastert, who was Speaker from the 106th to 109th Congresses, to register to lobby. He will split his time equally between Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

“He’s going to be providing advice, old-fashioned strategic advice,” said Zausner, who declined to discuss which clients Hastert is likely to counsel. The firm works for a cadre of energy companies, including Peabody Energy, Covanta Energy and Delmarva Power.

The pickup, a few weeks in the making, is the second in as many months for Dickstein. The firm snagged former Maryland Rep. Albert Wynn (D) after he lost in a primary election against Donna Edwards earlier this year. Wynn’s former chief of staff, Curt Clifton, joined him at Dickstein.

The two major hires come as several firms are trying to lure retiring lawmakers.

“I think Dickstein is taking advantage of targets of opportunity and obviously doing a good job in the process of recruiting former Members,” said Ivan Adler, a recruiter at the McCormick Group who wasn’t involved in the Hastert negotiations.

Hiring lawmakers is often seen as a mixed bag by law firms and lobby shops because of their high salaries and unknown rainmaking abilities, but Dickstein has made it a practice.

Of the firm’s 19 lobbyists, former Sens. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.), Joseph Tydings (D-Md.) and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) and former Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) all work in its regulatory practice.

Hastert is likely to earn between $500,000 and $700,000, according to recruiters and managing partners.

That high of a salary can be a drain on law firms in a tight economy if the lawmaker doesn’t produce, recruiters say.

“Whenever you are dealing with staff or Members coming without a book of business, you are taking a chance,” Adler said.

Neither Wynn nor Hastert can lobby upon joining the firm. Hastert’s one-year ban, as required by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, will be up at the end of November. Wynn cannot lobby until June of next year. Zausner said he expects Wynn will lobby once his ban is up.

Hastert withdrew from politics amid the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and the House page scandal that forced Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) to retire.

Since leaving office, Hastert hasn’t been seen much in Washington. Instead, he focused his energy on Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. He also threw his hat into GOP presidential politics, backing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“It’s not surprising he’d want to get back and get working again,” said John Feehery, a former Hastert aide who operates his own consulting shop, the Feehery Group. “I think his middle name ought to be ‘Work.’”

While many of the lawmakers Hastert has strong ties with have already left Congress, lobbyists and former aides say that he remains close to plenty, including Reps. Adam Putnam (R-Calif.) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.).