Murray Known for ‘Subtle’ K Street Approach

Posted January 24, 2011 at 6:36pm

Most of Sen. Patty Murray’s closest contacts downtown are former Senate aides or lobbyists with roots in the Pacific Northwest. As the Washington state lawmaker leads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in a potentially brutal election cycle, she will get fundraising help from her circle of K Street contacts. And lobbyists say she will rely on a laid-back but persistent style to tap downtown and corporate interests.

“Her approach is more subtle,” said one K Streeter who has close ties to Murray. “She tends to kill you with kindness.”

Murray’s first round chairing the DSCC in the 2002 cycle — as well as her spots on the Appropriations, Budget, and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees — has helped introduce her to a broader network of people on K Street.

“When she was chair of the DSCC before, she was always underestimated, and I think there’s some sense of that from those that don’t know her well this time,” said one lobbyist who previously worked for Murray. “But she’s not Chuck Schumer; she’s not in your face.”

Schumer, a three-term Senator from New York,  led the DSCC through two successful election cycles in 2006 and 2008.

One of Murray’s closest downtown advisers is former Chief of Staff Rick Desimone, now an executive vice president at McBee Strategic Consulting. Denny Miller and Shay Hancock, a former Murray aide, are considered go-to K Streeters.

Murray has long-standing ties to lobbying teams at Boeing Co. and Microsoft Corp., huge employers in her home state.

Justin LeBlanc, who runs LeBlanc Government Relations, once worked for Murray and has kept up ties with her team.

And though he never worked for her, Tim Punke, a partner at Monument Policy Group, who commutes to Washington, D.C., from Seattle, is a regular on the Murray fundraising scene.

“She engages people on a very friendly and personal level but nevertheless makes the very demanding requests she needs to be an effective fundraiser for the DSCC,” LeBlanc said. “Her style is her own style. It’s very Pacific Northwest. Chuck Schumer is very New York. They sort of bring the culture of their neck of the woods to bear.”

Desimone called his former boss “a workhorse who knows what it takes to put winning campaigns together.”

Her fundraising ties go beyond her state.

“I’m a big fan of hers; I’m not a nonbiased source,” said Larry O’Brien, who runs the OB-C Group. “She’s just persistent, a very dogged person. She can be quietly relentless, which to me really is going to prove to be a very positive behavioral characteristic in her job.”

O’Brien, who acknowledged that Murray’s role at the DSCC won’t be easy, said he received some sneak peeks at Murray’s message. “I’ve already heard a little of it, and it’s that you have to take this seriously and redouble your efforts,” he said.

Not all big Democratic donor-fundraisers on K Street give Murray such high marks. One such lobbyist said Murray is viewed as overly focused on lobbyists and interests with ties to the Pacific Northwest.

“I wonder how she will fare in this environment where a lot of people think Republicans are going to take back the Senate,” the lobbyist said. “I think I’m better off helping individual Senators than helping the party committee.”

That said, this lobbyist added that Murray is an aggressive fundraiser who “gets on the phone and asks.”