A Mainer Duo With a Singular Role

Posted November 18, 2008 at 6:12pm

Most Republican lobbyists are expecting a cold spell now that their former bosses and longtime government contacts have given up the power they once wielded. Yes, in a town preparing for an all-Democratic rule, GOPers on K Street probably need a support group.

But there is one duo of Republican Senators, Mainers Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, whose leverage has only increased, and in many cases could now tip the balance of power. And as long as neither one ends up as a Cabinet appointment in the Obama administration, both Snowe and Collins will find themselves assiduously courted by their Republican colleagues, Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

And that’s good news for lobbyists with long-standing ties to either Collins or Snowe.

“On key issues of spending and tax policy, these two Senators are pivotal,” said Peter Madigan of Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, who is considered close with both Senators. “They’re independent. They break with [their] leadership and are used to reaching across the aisle,” said Madigan, who is from Portland, Maine.

“I think Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are in play on nearly any vote of substance that the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress want to get done.”

Madigan said their independence also makes them difficult to lobby, but he expects that both will want to hear from all sides on important debates.

As a result, companies and trade associations most likely will be willing to pay for insight into Collins’ and Snowe’s operations and their thought processes.

“Certainly with Snowe and Collins, they will be in the driver’s seat,” said Philip Maggi, a lobbyist with mCapitol Management and a former counsel to Snowe on the Senate Commerce Committee.

“Not only will the Republican Party be trying to keep them voting with them, but you will have Democrats making potentially some type of compromises with them to get their votes,” Maggi said. “So they are in a very, very powerful position.”

One former Collins aide said it will be helpful for his business to have the connections to both those offices. Clients will want someone who can check in with the Senators and their staffs to see where things stand.

But, this lobbyist admitted, it’s going to be a crowded field. “Everyone’s going to be coming at them,” he said. “There will be a lot of meetings, a lot of time and a lot of pressure on them.”

Spokespersons for both Senators say their bosses will listen to all sides “without any consideration being given to former staffers or anyone else,” Collins’ spokeswoman Jen Burita noted in an e-mail. Snowe spokesman John Gentzel said his boss makes her decisions based on “the best interest of her constituents in Maine.”

Both Collins, who is the state’s junior Senator and hails from Caribou in the far northern part of Maine, and Snowe, a former Member of the U.S. House, have ties on K Street that include former staffers and New England-focused lobbyists such as Madigan and Ron Kaufman, a lobbyist at Dutko Worldwide.

Madigan met Snowe while she served in the House and also worked with her husband, John McKernan, when he was governor of Maine. He first got to know Collins while working on a 1982 Senate campaign when Madigan stayed at Collins’ parents’ home. He later helped Collins with her first Senate campaign and is involved with her political action committee.

Snowe’s former aides who are now in the private sector include Jane Calderwood, a former Snowe chief of staff who is now a lobbyist at Brown & Co.; Dave Lackey, who is with Fidelity Investments; Andrew Minkiewicz, an associate in Kelley Drye’s government relations practice; Tom Geier, who is in government relations for 3M; and Jana Barresi, a former Snowe legislative assistant who is now manager of federal government relations for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Collins’ one-time aides include Michael Bopp, a partner at Gibson Dunn; Jim Dohoney with Raytheon; and Lockheed Martin’s Kristine Fauser, Collins’ former defense and national security adviser.

Snowe’s committee assignments include Senate Finance and Commerce, Science and Transportation, while Collins’ include serving on Armed Services and as ranking member on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Collins in particular has been rumored as a candidate for an Obama Cabinet slot, namely Homeland Security secretary.

Bopp, who was Collins’ chief counsel on the Homeland Security Committee and a one-time legislative director, said his former boss will be even more of a leader in the Senate than she has been.

“I suspect other Members and others who follow politics more generally are taking notice at how she has been successful in a very difficult state for Republicans,” Bopp said, referring to her 20-point victory in this year’s election.

“There are no easy votes for Susan Collins,” he added. “That means she wants to hear views on both sides of pretty much every vote. She is one of those Members that outside groups generally try to get to see and present their case to.”

One former longtime Snowe aide said that Snowe, too, will work to build coalitions and consensus around issues. “She’ll gather interesting groups of people to deal with the issues,” this aide said. “She has an impressive track record, and she believes in finding common ground.”