IBM Hires Ex-Bush Aide for Lobbying

Posted March 31, 2009 at 6:10pm

Correction Appended

IBM, one of the nation’s largest employers, will announce today that it is bringing on a longtime official from President George W. Bush’s administration as a top lobbyist with the company.

An IBM spokesman declined to openly discuss the hire but confirmed that Chris Padilla, a former deputy U.S. trade representative, will start today at Big Blue. The former Bush aide is replacing Christopher Caine, who is leaving the tech and consulting giant to start a professional services firm.

Asked what — if any — political considerations were made in hiring a Republican for the top job, the IBM spokesman said, “I can’t really go into that,— but he did confirm that the company spent “a couple of months— searching for Caine’s replacement, both inside and outside the company.

The job will require Padilla to manage lobbyists not only based in the U.S., but in more than 30 countries where the company does business, according to a job description obtained by Roll Call.

Padilla, a former lobbyist for AT&T, Eastman Kodak Co. and now-defunct Lucent Technologies, most recently worked in the Bush administration as a trade undersecretary in the Department of Commerce.

From 2002 to 2005, he worked in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“We’re a very, very complicated company, and there’s a lot of difficult issues going on, and it’s hard to come in and hit the ground running,— said the IBM spokesman, who did not want to be named in print. “For someone to come our way, they really have to meet some level that’s going to be able to deal with all of the stuff going on.—

IBM does not have a political action committee.

Last year, IBM spent $6.22 million on lobbying activities, including fees paid to Covington & Burling and Baker & McKenzie.

Recruiters say Padilla’s hire, however, is yet another example of how a dearth of local Democratic talent is causing frustration downtown, particularly with trade associations and corporations looking to beef up their teams with lobbyists and staffers from the majority party.

Ivan Adler, who specializes in placing lobbyists for the Arlington, Va.-based McCormick Group Inc., said “the pool of Democrats who want to work in the private sector is limited.—

“Not only is it small to begin with, it’s even smaller when you take the fact that they don’t necessarily want to work for pharmaceutical, insurance or financial services companies,— he said.

According to a recent Korn/Ferry International job vacancies memo obtained by Roll Call, insurance providers Aetna Inc. and New York Life Insurance Co., defense contractor Raytheon Co., Hilton Hotels Corp., the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity all had top lobbying jobs that remain unfilled — despite a turbulent economy that has sent unemployment well into double digits in some parts of the country.

Raytheon’s top lobbying slot is to replace William Lynn, who recently left the weapons maker to become a deputy defense secretary for President Barack Obama.

Lynn, a registered lobbyist while at Raytheon, was given a waiver by the Obama administration, which has shut out most hired guns from White House policy posts.

Nels Olson, a recruiter at Korn/Ferry, said many of his clients are experiencing basic labor economics in newly Democratic D.C.

“Given the current political environment, our clients obviously are looking to make sure they have the right bipartisan team. They’re predominantly looking for Democratic talent,— Olson said. “There’s a supply-demand issue in some ways in terms of having enough people with Democratic credentials as well as the appropriate leadership experience, as well as management experience, to take on these roles.—

One of Olson’s clients, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, confirmed that it continues to look for both Democrats and Republicans to fill three high-level jobs at the group: vice-president-level jobs for media relations, advocacy outreach, and paid and digital outreach.

Joe Lucas, a coalition spokesman, said this is first time that his group has used a headhunter, but that “It’s a good time to be in the market for talent.— He also said that with himself, coalition President Steve Miller and other Democrats in top jobs at the group, it has a lot more flexibility in whom it considers.

“We’re hiring the people who can bring added value to our program, and that is about strategy, management skills and a lot of different things,— he said. “We have a very well-rounded team [already] … so we can choose the best talent.—

Anna Palmer contributed to this report.

Correction: April 1, 2009

The article erroneously stated that Citigroup Executive Vice President Nick Calio was under consideration for the IBM job. He was not.