Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican turned lobbyist, says his ex-firm Squire Patton Boggs “took the low road” in reportedly firing him. Lott added that another former senator, Democrat John B. Breaux, was also planning to leave the shop.
“This whole thing boils down to a very simple equation: Breaux and I decided it was time to move on to another firm, a strictly public policy firm,” Lott told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday.
“Word got back to the firm,” he added, “and they decided to try to undermine our ability to get clients. … We’re not mad at anybody.”
Breaux, a Democrat from Louisiana and a longtime business partner of Lott’s, did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement Monday evening, Squire Patton Boggs CEO Mark Ruehlmann said the firm had “decided that it is the right time to make a change in the leadership of our industry leading Public Policy practice. We wish to thank retired Senator Trent Lott for his years of service to the firm and our clients. As a global law firm, we are obliged to constantly evaluate and tailor our professional offerings to not only respond, but also anticipate the issues and concerns of an evolving marketplace and the clients we serve.”
A spokesman, Angelo Kakolyris, said Tuesday that would be the only comment, though he added, Lott “has not made us aware of any plans.”
The statement said that Breaux and other former elected officials remained at Squire Patton Boggs, including former Speaker John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, and former Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, among others.
Coming amid worldwide demonstrations against killings by police against African Americans, Lott’s exit was viewed on K Street as potentially linked to comments he made that drove him from Senate GOP leadership in 2002.
Speaking at an event for South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday, Lott recalled that Mississippi had supported Thurmond’s segregationist run for president in 1948.
“And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either,” Lott said in December 2002.
Lott later apologized and stepped down as Republican leader. In 2007, he resigned from the Senate.
Off to K Street
Lott and Breaux opened their independent lobbying firm, the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, in 2009, signing up a roster of clients including AT&T, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Nissan North America and Northrop Grumman Corp., among others. They merged the practice into Patton Boggs, one of the city’s largest and longtime K Street firms, in 2010.
Lott said the reason for looking for a new shop was because of concerns over potential conflicts between lobbying clients and the global law firm’s legal clientele.
Though Lott would not name the firm he said he had been in talks to join because the deal had not yet been “consummated,” he said it was a shop with his own former staff members. Lott has nearly 80 former aides on K Street, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the revolving door between Congress and the lobbying business.