K Street Files: No Downtime Downtown

Posted April 9, 2010 at 5:24pm

Just because Congress took a two-week recess, that doesn’t mean everybody downtown was getting a break. Multiple new firms opened their doors, and lobbyists were busy with job switches over the spring recess.

[IMGCAP(1)]Eleven public relations and grass-roots operatives officially launched Convergence Public Affairs. Pat Ahearn, president of Sextant Public Affairs, is the point man for the new firm, which is headquartered in Alexandria, Va. Ahearn and all of the partners in the venture will maintain their own operations and come together to pitch big clients. The firm has hired Cheryl Oldham part time.

“I’ve always been interested in going after these bigger campaigns,” said Peter Mirijanian of Peter Mirijanian Public Affairs, who is part of the venture. “We can do it by bringing people with their own successful firms together and do a hands-on approach to how we service these clients.”

Ahearn and Mirijanian will be joined by Albert Collazo, head of AC Alliances; Eric Cote of Cote & D’Ambrosio; Tim Dickson of Groundswell Communications; and Steve Knuth of Public Affairs Co.

Also in on the venture are Kurt Malmgren, former senior vice president of government affairs at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America who is now head of Malmgren Government Strategies; Karen Moore, founder of Moore Consulting Group; Jeff Oldham of Sextant Public Affairs; and Erik Potholm, a partner at SRCPmedia.

Every member of the team has current or recent affiliations with PhRMA, but they aren’t limiting their reach to health care clients, according to Ahearn. The group is mum about which clients it is going after.

Wingates of Change. Global investment bank and securities firm Nomura has hired Heather Wingate to open its Washington, D.C., office. Wingate joins from Citigroup, where she spent the past seven years as head of the bank’s federal government affairs.

“Heather has led our efforts before the U.S. Congress in good times and bad and achieved significant successes in both times,” Citigroup’s Nick Calio wrote in an e-mail announcing Wingate’s departure. “She has combined a sound sense of strategy with keen tactical insights to produce tangible results that favorably impact Citi’s bottom line.” Wingate joined Citigroup after serving as an adviser in the George W. Bush administration.

New Diagram at Venn. After two of its partners left to start a new shop, the lobby firm Venn Strategies is reorganizing. Stephanie Silverman will serve as Venn’s CEO and Penny Lee, a former top communications and political adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is becoming Venn’s president. Brian Reardon, who joined Venn from the George W. Bush administration, where he was special assistant to the president for economic policy, will be Venn’s chief operating officer.

Republican Sandra Swirski and Democrat Anne Urban left Venn this month to start Urban Swirski & Associates.

Silverman said Venn’s portfolio is expanding and the firm has just added Rebecca Dreilinger, a former press secretary for Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), as assistant vice president and is looking to add additional lobbyists.

Silverman’s public affairs work was causing competition for “resources” with the lobbying side, Swirski said in an e-mail.

Urban Swirski & Associates is opening its doors with two former Venn associates: Michael McHugh, a former policy aide to then-Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), and Amy Takeuchi-Wanlass, a former staffer for Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). Urban Swirski is adding William Coughlin, formerly with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

K Street Moves. Jeff Pannozzo, who spent the past six years as an in-house lobbyist with DuPont, has traded in chemical compounds for fast food. Pannozzo is now director of government affairs in the Washington, D.C., office of Yum Brands Inc., the parent company of several fast-food chains including A&W, KFC, Long John Silver’s, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

• Speaking of eateries, the National Restaurant Association has added Joan McGlockton as vice president of industry affairs and food policy. McGlockton most recently served as senior vice president of corporate affairs for Sodexho Inc. McGlockton will lead the NRA’s regulatory policy and advocacy efforts.

• Mike Dabbs, director of government relations at the Information Technology Industry Council, is joining Applied Materials as director of government relations. Dabbs will lead the company’s Congressional and executive branch lobbying on energy, tax and trade issues as they relate to technology policy.

• Chuck Cooper is joining the Millennium Challenge Corp. as vice president for Congressional and public affairs. Cooper most recently served as staff director for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

Kate Ackley contributed to this report.

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