Digging in as an all-GOP firm in a Democratic town

CGCN Group lobbyists say the new political landscape won’t alter their business plan

As many K Street firms are trying to add Democratic help given the shift in party control, CGCN Group is staying all Republican and adding a partner from the Trump White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
As many K Street firms are trying to add Democratic help given the shift in party control, CGCN Group is staying all Republican and adding a partner from the Trump White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 4, 2021 at 6:00am

Many of K Street’s power players have gone in search of Democratic talent now that the party controls official Washington, but one shop went in a totally different direction, recruiting its newest partner from the Trump administration. 

The CGCN Group, an all-Republican lobbying and communications outfit, plans to remain a single-party firm, and unapologetically so, even though Democrats hold the Senate, House and White House.

The firm’s newest partner is Tim Pataki, who most recently served as assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, a crucial intersection between outside stakeholders and the administration. Pataki also previously worked on Capitol Hill for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. 

The move comes as corporate interests plot out how to advance their agendas in a narrowly divided Congress while also grappling with fallout from the violent assault on the Capitol, fueled by a Trump-supporting mob. 

“Yes this may be a bluer town than it was a few months ago, but the reality is it’s a 50-50 Senate, and in the House, the speaker has only a couple vote advantage,” said Antonia Ferrier, the firm’s chief strategic communications officer. “We are very confident in our decision to stay all Republican. To write off Republicans is a bad business decision because clients are going to need them on so many of the issues Democrats are going to push.” 

The firm’s lobbyists and employees previously worked with lawmakers and officials who span the GOP’s ideological spectrum. Ferrier was staff director for the Senate Republican Communications Center and a top spokesperson for then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The firm’s co-CEO Matt Rhoades was campaign manager for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign; Romney, now a GOP senator from Utah, is viewed as a moderate in the party.  

Michael Catanzaro, CGCN’s president and chief policy officer, served in the Trump administration as special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy.  The other co-CEO, Sam Geduldig, worked for House GOP leaders as well as now-Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. 

In addition to hiring Pataki, CGCN also recently promoted Tim Killeen and Alex Renjel to partners. Killeen previously worked for Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, while Renjel previously worked for Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma. The firm hired Amber Kirchhoefer, a former deputy chief of staff for then-Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, in January also as a partner.

Corporate clients

CGCN has a long list of corporate and association clients, including many from the energy and financial services sectors. They include the American Petroleum Institute, the Bank Policy Institute, the Investment Company Institute, American Airlines, Microsoft and Duke Energy, among others. 

Mike Sommers, president and CEO of API, said that his operation retains consultants from both sides of the aisle. Being an all-GOP firm, he said, “differentiates” the CGCN Group and Pataki, with his administration and Hill experience, “is going to be a huge benefit.” 

Disclosures filed by the firm showed annual lobbying revenue of more than $9 million in 2019 and about $8.4 million in 2020, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Pataki, who once worked for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he wanted to join CGCN because of its lobbying portfolio as well as its work in strategic communications. He’d also worked with the Catanzaro in the Trump administration and with John Stipicevic, who is CGCN’s chief advocacy officer, on the Hill in McCarthy’s leadership office.

“CGCN has the trust of their clients and are the ultimate professionals,” Pataki said. His “crowning achievement” in the administration was the bipartisan overhaul of the free trade agreement with the United States, Mexico and Canada. “Working with businesses across the country during the pandemic to produce and deliver PPE [personal protective equipment] was one of the most rewarding periods of my career,” he added. 

Ferrier said Pataki is known and trusted in the business community. 

Revolving-door movement

Still, some companies are under pressure by liberal efforts to convince them not to hire people from the Trump administration or donate to Republicans, including McCarthy, who voted against certifying some states’ 2020 electoral results, after Trump who claimed the election had been stolen from him. Some companies have suspended their corporate political action committee donations to all lawmakers, while they say they reassess their practices; others have said they plan to cut off some of the Republicans for the time being. 

Julian Ha, a partner in Heidrick & Struggles' Washington office who leads their government affairs and association practices, said that many corporate and association clients are looking to bring on senior executives with Democratic credentials. But, he said, the value for Republicans, including those who have worked in the recent administration, has held up given the razor-thin margin of Democratic control in Congress.  

“If you compared it to the currency markets, the exchange rate of former Trump officials continues to hold up although with a lot of fluctuations and volatility,” Ha said.

Pataki isn’t the only former Trump administration aide to have landed downtown recently.  

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is at the Conservative Partnership Institute, while Kristina Baum, who was communications director at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, signed on to the firm Qorvis Communications as a vice president of public affairs.

Geduldig said that staying all Republican comes with political advantages, even during all-Democratic rule of Capitol Hill and the White House. 

“We have tremendous trust with our friends in the party,” he said. “They know and respect us.”