Lobby Associations Hang ‘Help Wanted’ Signs

K Street Recruiters Predict Slowdown in Job Market This Fall Until After Elections

Posted July 16, 2010 at 5:12pm

A midsummer’s push is under way to fill several vacancies atop downtown trade associations, high-paying gigs that may lie fallow until the end of the year if candidates aren’t named in the coming weeks.

Top executive positions were empty as of late last week at eight powerful industry groups: the Business Roundtable, the American Bankers Association, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, the American Health Care Association, the American Council of Life Insurers, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the American Gas Association.

“We’ll stay pretty active here through the summer,” said Nels Olson, a managing director at the search firm Korn/Ferry International. “From late September through the election, things will slow down a bit.”

Of the eight open jobs, two have gone on the market since July 1, and one may be filled within days. Nearly two weeks ago, ABA President Edward Yingling announced his resignation just as the Senate was putting the finishing touches on a financial regulatory reform bill, which was sent to President Barack Obama’s desk Thursday. And the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America announced Tuesday that John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, would replace ex-Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) as the drug industry’s top envoy in Washington, D.C.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) is “in the final stages of negotiating” to be the next president of the Motion Picture Association of America, he told radio personality Don Imus last week. Kerrey would succeed ex-Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.), who left the movie lobby earlier this year.

“I’m relatively certain of it,” Kerrey told Imus.

Although he declined to discuss recruitment, Olson said his firm is conducting the searches to replace Yingling and Glickman. He described the number of top executive vacancies as “about average” for this point in the election cycle. And despite a sluggish economy, he said, firms are still willing to pay top dollar for top talent.

“They’re still waiting to invest in people who will deliver for them,” Olson said. “Some of these compensation packages are not insignificant, I realize that, but set with a choice of an adverse rulemaking, trade outcome or tax implication, it can be a drop in the bucket.”

Take-Home Pay

It is uncertain what salary Yingling’s replacement will draw, but there’s a high likelihood that it will be much more than the publicly available salary totals for the job. According to the ABA’s 2007 IRS filing, Yingling’s overall pay was roughly $2.3 million, including $1.3 million in salary, more than $960,000 in benefits and deferred compensation, and a roughly $10,000 expense account.

Kerrey is also likely to command much more than his predecessor. In 2008, Glickman was paid about $1.4 million, including $1.3 million in salary and $13,000 in deferred compensation.

In an interview last week, new PhRMA chief Castellani declined to say how much he’ll be making with his new employer. According to 2008 tax forms, he made more than $5.6 million as president of the Business Roundtable, a group that is expected to pay big bucks for Castellani’s replacement.

J.P. Moery, a trade association consultant, said many organizations are looking for candidates like Castellani, who is known as a low-profile but skilled manager.

“Boards and search committees are looking for folks who can run a business and an advocacy operation,” Moery said.

A Roll Call analysis of tax forms shows that former Generic Pharmaceutical Association President Kathleen Jaeger, who quit in May, made roughly $730,000 in 2008, including $461,000 in base pay and a $230,000 bonus. Outgoing American Health Care Association CEO Bruce Yarwood made about $760,000 in 2008, including $642,000 in base pay and a $67,000 bonus.

In 2008, American Council of Life Insurers President Frank Keating made
$2.9 million, including an $883,000 salary, a $550,000 bonus and $1.4 million in deferred compensation. American Gas Association President David Parker in the same year made more than $1.36 million, including $773,000 in base pay and a $200,000 bonus.

The year before, National Community Pharmacists Association President Bruce Roberts drew $530,000 in overall compensation.

The Privileges of Membership

While any or all of these jobs could be filled by Jan. 1, recruiters say that a handful of retiring Members are considered top prospects if vacancies remain then. Members on K Streeters’ short list include Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), as well as retiring Blue Dog Coalition Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.).

“People are looking to hire the best available athlete, someone who can work with both sides of the aisle and who’s just a really good, solid ‘A’ player,” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter with the McCormick Group. “And folks that are not radioactive.”

Adler said the overall economy continues to complicate job prospects on K Street, where “security blanket syndrome” is limiting action in corner offices downtown.

“There’s not a lot of movement at the top, and there’s not a hell of a lot of movement anywhere — people are afraid to leave because if they make a mistake, it’s harder to find another job,” Adler said. “If you’re a high-flyer at one of these trade associations, the air is pretty thin at the top.”