Molinari Leaves for Bracewell & Giuliani

Posted September 9, 2008 at 6:32pm

Former New York Rep. Susan Molinari (R) exited the Washington Group Tuesday for the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani after seven years with the firm, most recently as chairwoman of the lobby shop and senior partner at its parent company, Ketchum Inc.

The move came after the four-term Congresswoman served as a senior adviser to firm name partner and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) during his presidential bid. During that time, Molinari also worked closely with Bracewell’s managing partner, Patrick Oxford, who served as chairman of Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

She will start Oct. 6.

“I always thought I’d be leaving [the firm] to go work for Rudy Giuliani,” Molinari said of the move. “Of course, I thought it would be for a presidential run.”

Bracewell courted Molinari for about two months before it became official, according to Scott Segal, co-chairman of the firm’s public policy practice. She will join former Rep. Jim Chapman (D-Texas) as the firm’s second ex-lawmaker in the policy group.

“There will be additional hires in the section,” said Segal, who said he expects growth in strategic communications, among other practice areas.

Molinari is one of a handful of senior lobbyists who have recently left the Washington Group, which was purchased by the public relations firm Ketchum in 2001.

Co-founder John Raffaelli departed in 2007 to found Capitol Counsel and was later joined by former Washington Group Democratic lobbyist Richard Sullivan in 2007 and defense lobbyist Anthony Marken earlier this year.

Two of the firm’s health care specialists, William Burke and Kathy Kulkarni, also left, forming Rubicon Advisors in 2007.

And lobbyist Rita Lewis, a longtime member of the firm and its former vice chairwoman, joined the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in January 2008.

The Washington Group reported $4.82 million in lobbying income in 2007, and nearly $2 million as of the end of July, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports. Despite the exits, it maintains a cadre of senior lobbyists, including Missy Edwards, Tonya Speed, who has strong ties to the Congressional Black Caucus, agriculture lobbyist Fowler West and defense specialist Jim Noone.

John O’Hanlon, a co-founder and managing director of the Washington Group, will take over as chairman, according to Ketchum Vice President Matt Stearns.

“We’ve enjoyed working with Susan over the last seven years and we wish her well as she joins her good friend Mayor Giuliani at his law firm,” Stearns said.

“I think you’ll see some exciting news about the future direction of the Washington Group,” said Stearns, who declined to elaborate.

The Washington Group is one of several lobbying firms under the umbrella of the Omnicom Group, which is Ketchum’s corporate parent.

Other Omnicom lobbying shops in town include Porter Novelli, Clark & Weinstock and Fleischman-Hillard.

At Bracewell, the addition of Molinari follows the launching last week of its new Public Issues Management Group, whose goal is a multifaceted approach to put public affairs into a broad context.

Molinari is expected to spend the bulk of her time in Washington doing both lobbying and public affairs work. So far, it appears that Molinari, who is married to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld lobbyist and former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), will move as a solo lobbyist to the firm. It is unclear whether she will be able to take her clients, which include the Association of American Railroads, energy company Exelon Corp. and the Embassy of Panama.

Ketchum was embroiled in a lawsuit over an incomplete agreement when Harry Sporidis jumped to Powell Goldstein in 2007. Sporidis wanted to take his book of business with him, which included lucrative clients such as Mentor, a breast implant company, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. That suit was settled in July of this year, but details were sealed.

“Right now, this is kind of a big hurdle for both of us to get through,” Molinari said of keeping her clients. “That’s where we are focusing right now.”