K Street Files: Preaching to the Choir

Posted November 3, 2008 at 6:44pm

There was, as one veteran Washington, D.C., trade association lobbyist put it, “something inadvertently and faintly patronizing” about a recent pitch letter that he received from Cassidy & Associates.

[IMGCAP(1)]“What works? How do we move forward in the face of a challenging environment where change is the only constant? Are there opportunities to build new coalitions to advance common interests? These are surely the kinds of questions your members are also asking,” read the one-page letter, signed by Executive Vice President Gerry Warburg, Vice Chairman Gregg Hartley and Senior Vice President Kai Anderson.

“It’s like something you’d send to the Chamber in Muncie, Ind.,” the lobbyist said. “If you were starting from scratch this is something you’d do.”

Cassidy, of course, is not starting from scratch. But in anticipation of today’s expected Democratic sweep, the venerable firm, now more than 30 years old and with a powerful Republican tint, will have to undergo something of a makeover. Or at least intensify the changes that have been under way since Hartley, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt’s (Mo.) former chief of staff, began running the firm’s day-to-day operations five years ago.

Hartley’s “connection to the House Republican Leadership unsurpassed by any other group or individual in Washington” — as his firm bio puts it — may be a bit beside the point by the time the polls close tonight.

But Hartley has been putting in place changes that are designed to push Cassidy into a new Democratic age. In the past five years, he said, the firm’s portfolio has broadened significantly, with appropriations work decreasing from about 70 percent of its revenue to around 45 percent of its nearly $25 million in reportable Lobbying Disclosure Act fees last year.

Over the past four years, Cassidy has also moved almost entirely to what Hartley calls an “entrepreneurial model” of compensation, one that pays a lower base salary than in the past, but a conversely far higher percentage of the business that a lobbyist brings to the firm.

“We believed we needed to mark to market our compensation system since we were historically a salary and bonus system,” Hartley said. That way, he said, “our practice leaders could make more money and we could grow.”

Now, he said, “we don’t hire anybody new on a salary and bonus, everybody will start on an entrepreneurial model.”

Finding those heavyweight Democrats, however, now that Democrats are in the Congressional majority and favored to win the White House, is not easy, he said.

And throwing more money at them is not necessarily the solution. Hartley said: “If you’re willing to give up $400,000 to $500,000 to do public service, you’ll give up $650,000.” But, he added, “We’re in hot pursuit of a couple right now.”

K Street Moves. Strategic consulting venture Ian Reid has launched a Washington, D.C., practice that will focus on corporate and investment services. The firm has enlisted lobbyist Jarvis Stewart of Stewart Partners to become chairman and managing partner of the firm.

The firm also specializes in political intelligence and research and government marketing.

In addition to Stewart, Thomas Batties, a veteran banking and financial services executive and lawyer, has joined the D.C. operation as managing director.

• Patton Boggs of counsel Karen Marangi moves to the Raben Group as a principal. Marangi, a former counsel to then-Senate Judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), spent nearly 10 years at Patton Boggs.

• The American Heart Association has a new chief executive officer. Nancy Brown, the group’s chief operating officer for the past seven years, will become CEO on Jan. 1, replacing Cass Wheeler, who has headed the 84-year-old Dallas-based group since 1997.

• The Managed Funds Association, which represents the hedge fund industry, has brought on board Stuart Kaswell as executive vice president and general counsel. He will start Dec. 1.

Kaswell was a partner in Bryan Cave’s white-collar defense and investigations and securities law practices. Before that, he served as a Republican staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

• Bose Public Affairs Group has nabbed Patricia Power, an aide to the late Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.). She will be a vice president at the firm.

• Patrick Von Bargen, a former chief of staff to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and one-time CEO of the Center for Venture Education’s Kauffman Fellows Program in Silicon Valley, has joined Quinn Gillespie & Associates as a director.

Kate Ackley contributed to this report.

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