Correction to This Article
A Special Interests item on the Sept. 29 Federal Page described the Missouri law firm Polsinelli Shalton Welte Suelthaus as an Ohio firm. The online version has been corrected.

Ohio Firm Seeks to Join the Bigs in Election Law

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, September 29, 2005

Campaign finance and election law certainly seems a natural specialty for a Washington law firm, but there are only a handful of major players: Wiley Rein, Perkins Coie, Skadden Arps, Patton Boggs most often come to mind.

Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, an Ohio-based firm, wants to join their ranks -- and is making a big splash with the signing of Bradley A. Smith , the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission.

The firm had already made a commitment to growing the practice when in the past year it hired Brett G. Kappel , a longtime election-law specialist, to join Randal C . Teague in Washington. Kappel and Teague also lobby, but Smith says he has no plans to do so.

Smith, who worked at the firm before joining the FEC, and Joseph D. Lonardo , managing partner of the D.C. office, say the plan is to create a bipartisan group. They note that Wiley Rein is known for its Republican lawyers and Perkins Coie for its Democrats.

Smith, a Republican, has been known for his strong criticism of much of federal campaign finance regulation. But he says he would be willing to represent Democratic and liberal clients and notes that left-wing bloggers were pleased with his opposition to regulation of their Internet activities.

"By nature, most of what you do . . . is help the client to comply with the law," Smith said. "You better have an argument that fits with law, not with what you would like it to be."

Lonardo said some of the firm's big corporate clients are concerned about complying with the complicated McCain-Feingold campaign finance law enacted in March 2002.

Because of ethics restrictions, Smith won't be able to represent clients before the FEC for a year.

From Homeland Security to a Homecoming

Alston & Bird has scored a major coup in the Washington rush to hire homeland security experts. The firm has signed Joe Whitley , the Department of Homeland Security's first general counsel. It's a homecoming for Whitley, who was a partner at the firm before joining the newly formed agency in 2003.

"I promised my wife I would not stay there more than about two years," Whitley said.

Though he has a one-year prohibition on contacting the DHS, Whitley will be working with the firm's government relations group and developing "a global security and enforcement practice."

Whitley and Frank "Rusty " M. Conner III , partner in charge of the D.C. office, said the practice will advise clients on a variety of security concerns, from immigration and customs to energy, privacy and critical infrastructure.

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