Jones-ing for Partner

Changes at Firm Are More Than Cosmetic

Posted March 27, 2009 at 5:17pm

Correction Appended

When Jonathon Jones joined Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart in 2007, the former chief of staff to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) had little idea that two years later he would become a name partner at the firm.

But that’s exactly what’s happened.

With the retirement of the firm’s co-founder David Johnson in June and Republican Michael Boland exiting at the end of December to start his own venture, Dome Advisors, the firm is rebranding itself with Jones as a central player.

Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart will officially became the firm’s name today.

While Jones’ ownership stake is still being worked out, the name change is more than just cosmetic.

It reflects a transition in the firm’s leadership and lobbying team, which have undergone major changes over the past couple of years, according to firm Chairman Jeffrey Peck and Peter Madigan, the president and chief operating officer.

“Pat [Griffin] and David built a fantastic brand with high integrity,— said Peck, former general counsel and majority staff director to the Senate Judiciary Committee under then-Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.). “Peter and I have stepped into that role, and we’ve been growing it well, and now we have the next generation coming on board.—

Besides increasing its revenues in 2008 to $10.5 million from about $9.5 million in 2007, according to Senate lobbying disclosure records, the firm has significantly beefed up its Democratic and Republican benches.

New staff who came aboard within the past 18 months include former Senate Republican Conference aide Andrew Cantor, Bush administration legislative affairs aide Justin McCarthy, and John Michael Gonzalez, who joined after more than six years in the House, most recently with Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.).

Other recent additions include Alix Burns, formerly with TechNet; Sean Richardson, former chief of staff to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former Clinton administration official Sheila Murphy; and Tanya Lombard, formerly with Altria Corporate Services Inc.

The lobby shop, which was originally named Griffin, Johnson & Associates, was the brainchild of Griffin, a former aide to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), and Johnson, a former adviser to Maine Democratic Sens. Edmund Muskie and George Mitchell.

The duo became friends when they regularly trekked to the Hall of States in 1981 to do campaign work for their bosses because staffers couldn’t make campaign calls on federal property then, according to Griffin.

Griffin went downtown to Burson Marsteller in 1985 to start the public relations giant’s government affairs operation, while Johnson went over to what is now the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

In 1987, the pair formed Griffin, Johnson & Associates.

“We rented a room for $500 in an abandoned law firm downtown with two telephones,— Griffin said of their modest start. “We were just sitting there waiting for the phone to ring.—

It didn’t take long.

Soon Griffin, Johnson & Associates became known for representing blue-chip clients such as the American Insurance Association. The firm also expanded, bringing in Mike Kitzmiller, a senior aide to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.); Jack Dover, who later left the firm to help run Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-Ohio) campaign for Senate; and Joe Stewart, a longtime Senate aide who served as Secretary of the Senate under Byrd.

After Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the firm was still primarily known as a Senate Democratic firm, according to Madigan. In fact, Griffin served as former President Bill Clinton’s Capitol Hill lobbyist from late 1993 to early 1996.

That changed in the early 2000s, when the firm added Republicans Madigan, Boland and Janet Mullins Grissom.

Helping to beef up the firm’s GOP ties were Madigan, a deputy assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the Treasury Department in the George H.W. Bush administration; Boland, a former aide to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.); and Grissom, another former aide to Bush and a senior lobbyist in Ford Motor Co.’s Washington, D.C., office.

During the same time, Peck came over after running accounting firm Arthur Andersen’s government affairs operation.

While many K Street lobby shops welcomed the mega-buyouts of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the firm remained staunchly independent under Griffin and Johnson’s direction.

“I’m afraid in large measure I’m responsible for that,— Griffin said. “Money was important, but we also wanted a quality of life in terms of people that you can count on.—

Yet Griffin wasn’t opposed to bringing his fellow lobbyists into the ownership fold.

In 2003, Griffin and Johnson did an in-house sale of shares to Peck, Madigan and Democratic operatives Harold Ickes and Janice Enright, forming the holding company Tiber Creek.

The holding company counts not only Peck Madigan but also Ickes & Enright Group Inc. and the tech-focused Bay Bridge Strategies Inc. brands as part of its balance sheet.

It also underwent another name change in 2004, when Griffin headed back to the Senate to work for then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

Now, Peck and Madigan said they are planning for the firm’s continued success.

Despite losing the Electronic Payment Coalition as a client earlier this year, the firm says it is weathering the current economic downturn quite well.

“We’ve had huge growth the last three years in terms of clients, revenue and additions,— Peck said.

The firm also recently signed on the ONE Campaign, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Deutsche Bank as clients, according to recent Senate filings.

“The future of the firm is all about maintaining the culture,— Jones said. “What they’ve been doing the last 20 years has worked well, and if we maintain what we’re doing, the reality is there is going to be opportunity to grow.—

Correction: March 30, 2009

The article incorrectly reported that Joe Stewart had been Senate Parliamentarian. Stewart was Secretary of the Senate.