Former Dow Lohnes lobbyists join Levick


Mark Irion, left, president of Levick; Rick Kessler, senior vice president of government relations; and Richard Levick, chairman and chief executive of the District-based crisis communications firm. (Jeffrey MacMillan/For Capital Business)

Lobbyists formerly of the law firm Dow Lohnes have joined crisis communications outfit Levick, the firm plans to announce today.

Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, a roughly $3 million-a-year business, was a subsidiary of Dow Lohnes, but was left out of the deal in which the majority of Dow Lohnes’ Washington attorneys and professionals were absorbed into the much-larger law firm Cooley. That deal, announced in November, was somewhat unusual — law firm mergers typically involve the combination of entire firms, not parts of firms. Since then, the lobbying group had been shopping itself to more than 10 law, consulting and public relations firms. They got offers from at least six.

Half of the Dow Lohnes lobbyists — group leader Rick Kessler, Jessica Lenard, Michael Scrivner and Pete Leon — have joined Levick, with Kessler and Scrivner assuming senior vice president roles. Those who are not joining Levick have landed jobs on Capitol Hill, at a law firm and with the Republican State Leadership Committee, Kessler said.

The move marks Levick’s first major foray into lobbying, and the firm’s leaders say it is part of a broader strategy to integrate government relations with digital communications and public affairs.

A year ago, the firm hired Mark Irion, who previously led the lobby and public affairs firm Dutko Worldwide (now Dutko Grayling), to be its president. Irion said the evolution in the way people communicate is changing the way the communications industry must do business. The addition of Kessler’s team is one way Levick is adapting.

“Even in our daily lives, we communicate differently,” he said. “We’re more visual, more digital, more connected to our own affinity networks, and that’s shaping every facet of the persuasion industry, including lobbying. Lobbying traditionally has been focused on communicating to decision makers. But in the more highly networked world, the ability to shape public policy is so much harder now if you’re only talking to the decision makers and not to the constituency from whom they get their political mandate. We believe you have to coordinate those strategies to shape public opinion.”

Kessler said he expects the majority of his group’s clients to follow. The group has a heavy emphasis on energy and telecommunications policy, and its biggest client last year was Chevron, which paid it $240,000 in lobbying fees during the first three quarters of 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Richard Levick, the firm’s chairman and chief executive, said the line between communications, lobbying and public affairs is fading, and companies that offer those services will have to find ways to blend all those elements into a single communications strategy.

“There will always be room in this town and in state capitals around the country for great stand-alone lobbyists and stand-alone communications practitioners,” he said. “But the world is changing ... What we’re going to see diminish is the efficacy of purely relationship-based lobbying. It used to be that you tried to do a favor for those who were good to you, sometimes that was closely related to campaign contributions. But decision-makers in a digital world don’t have that latitude to do anything other than what their constituencies demand. We’re certain the synergy we’ve created and will continue to create is based on what our clients need, and what they will need tomorrow.”

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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