Wolff Leaves DCCC and Moves to Edison Electric

Posted March 9, 2009 at 11:28am

Updated: 7:45 p.m.

With global warming legislation looming, the GOP-leaning Edison Electric Institute is beefing up its Democratic ties and bringing on Brian Wolff, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Wolff, a close ally to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), will be senior vice president of external affairs at the association, which represents shareholder-owned electric utilities.

Wolff’s departure from the DCCC had been widely rumored on K Street.

Before becoming executive director, Wolff had been the DCCC’s deputy executive director in the 2006 cycle.

In addition to being the top staffer at the DCCC, he was also Pelosi’s political director.

“It’s a taxing job and we’re very lucky he did it for two cycles,— said Moses Mercado of Ogilvy Government Relations, who was the Democratic National Committee’s deputy executive director of intergovernmental affairs.

Jon Vogel, the former head of the DCCC’s independent expenditure arm, is rejoining the campaign committee and will become its new executive director. Vogel left the DCCC in February to become a partner with the polling firm Global Strategy Group.

Vogel is a former aide to Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.). He started the 2008 cycle as the DCCC’s political director before running its IE wing.

Vogel’s return to the DCCC is expected to re-energize and bring more direction to a campaign committee many Democratic lobbyists contend has been slow to announce a new slate of senior staffers.

Besides Vogel, there has been only one other public announcement about a senior staff member for the 2010 cycle — the appointment of Robby Mook as its political director. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee all announced their senior staff hires several weeks ago.

DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider disputed the suggestion that the campaign committee has gotten off to a slow start, saying that it “has been running on all cylinders.—

“This committee operates with the same focus and intensity in the off years as it does the on years,— Crider said in an e-mail.

Wolff’s departure to the energy trade group is part of a larger movement of Democrats moving into senior positions on K Street.

While staffers and lobbyists have been avidly watching where Democrats land downtown, EEI President Tom Kuhn said bringing Wolff on had less to do with his political affiliation than with his skill set.

“We were looking at ways to better integrate governmental affairs and communications,— said Kuhn, who became EEI’s president in 1990. “We thought if we could get somebody with a combination of both skills it would be a good thing to do.—

In the newly created position, Wolff will oversee the organization’s 21-person communications and 19-person government affairs groups. He will also be a member of the Office of the President, along with Executive Vice President David Owens and Senior Vice President Lynn LeMaster. Owens is also a Democrat.

Wolff is expected to register to lobby, according to Kuhn. And because he worked for the DCCC and not Congress, there will not be any restrictions on lobbying anyone on the Hill, including Pelosi.

The addition of Wolff, whose search was handled by Korn/Ferry International, fills the void left by the retirement of Vice President of Communications William Brier last year. “Our industry is facing a time where we have to make significant investment to meet the electricity demand,— Kuhn said. “We also have to transform the industry to a low-carbon future.—

Unlike many trade groups, which have struggled in the financial crisis, the 195-employee EEI has been fairly stable.

The association had revenue of about $70 million in 2006, according to the most recent publicly-available 990 Internal Revenue Service form.

Kuhn said the association has undergone some budget “belt-tightening,— including terminating its lobbying contract with Capitol Hill Consulting Group at the end of 2008. The association has not laid anyone off internally.

EEI spent nearly $7.5 million on lobbying in 2008 with more than 20 lobby shops on retainer, including Capitol Tax Partners, Mayer Brown, Hunton & Williams, Compass Consulting Group and National Environmental Strategies.

Still, the association has long had a Republican bent, especially in its political donations.

EEI’s political action committee contributed $201,460 to Republicans and $163,290 to Democrats in the 2008 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Shira Toeplitz contributed to this report.

Correction: March 9, 2009

The original version of this story, “DCCC’s Wolff Heading Downtown,— misstated Brian Wolff’s new title at Edison Electric Institute. He also will not be “second in command.—