Firms Looking to Hire Republicans

Posted March 2, 2010 at 6:00pm

With dozens of House seats ripe for the GOP’s picking in November, lobbyists are prepping for narrower Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill next year — or perhaps even a Republican takeover.

“Democratic control initially caused a pendulum swing to Democratic-leaning firms,” said Drew Maloney, a Republican who is the CEO of Ogilvy Government Relations. “You’ll see a swing back towards the middle, where firms that have a bipartisan balance of strong players will be well-positioned in the new environment.”

Lobbying shops began adding Democrats to their rosters when the now-majority party won the House in 2006. The hiring trend crested two years later, when then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) won the White House and later Democrats took a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Since then, tales of hefty six-figure paydays for even junior Democratic aides have wafted throughout the Capitol, enticing many staffers to depart for once-in-a-lifetime salary offers.

But with downtown firms now teeming with Democrats and GOP party leaders betting big on Election Day 2010, Maloney and other executives are putting Republican résumés on the top of the stack for the first time in four years. Ogilvy recently hired Republicans Justin Daly and John O’Neill to round out the firm’s practice.

“We’re at a point where we have a good strong balance. We hired two strong Republicans recently. … We now have an even mix of Democrats and Republicans,” Maloney said. “And there’s even more talent on the Republican side that you’ll see leaving the Hill at the end of the year. Their prospects are greatly improved with the potential outcomes of the election.”

O’Neill previously worked for Venable and the Senate Finance Committee; Daley is a former staffer for ex-Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Republican consultant John Feehery, a one-time aide to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said Republicans are “cautiously optimistic” about their November prospects. With that in mind, he said many hiring bosses are scooping up recently underemployed GOP hands while they’re still on discount.

“If you’re smart in hiring, you look for talent that would come cheaper now than it would be in six months, and there’s a lot of people out there now who have a lot of talent who couldn’t get jobs because they’re a Republican,” Feehery said. “The marketplace will correct itself because there was some irrational exuberance towards any old Democrat, and now you’ll look for bargains and look for talent.”

Even the Podesta Group and other Democratic-leaning shops are succumbing to the GOP feeding frenzy. Podesta CEO Kimberley Fritts, a Republican, said she has recently hired three Republicans — Steve Northrup, Molly McKew and Robert Taylor — and is considering adding more.

“We tilt in the way the Congress and the administration does. We always look at our business and where the trends are going with business and with people,” she said. “We’ve always been bipartisan and will continue to hire that way.”

McKew previously worked as a defense researcher at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Northrup was a health care staffer for Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). Taylor is a former Defense Department aide who also previously worked for Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and then-Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.).

Ivan Adler, a recruiter with the McCormick Group, said GOP demand on K Street is particularly acute in high-demand practice areas such as financial services. And after enduring endless phone calls in recent years from managing directors scrounging for Democrats, Adler these days is channeling Mark Twain when it comes to Republican prospects.

“Reports of their demise are exaggerated,” Adler said. “In certain industries, corporations have become more enlightened to the fact that there’s a chance that Republicans could take over one or both Houses of Congress.”