Podesta, Livingston Look for Balance, Brawn in New Partnership

Anthony Podesta, left, and Robert L. Livingston aim to compete against bigger firms in their new lobby shop.
Anthony Podesta, left, and Robert L. Livingston aim to compete against bigger firms in their new lobby shop. (2004 Photo By Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Two of K Street's best-known names -- Anthony T. Podesta and Robert L. Livingston-- are combining forces to attract some of Washington's largest lobbying campaigns.

They have formed an alliance that will bring together the resources of their lobbying companies to better compete against bigger firms for the business of industries, nonprofit groups and countries involved in high-stakes clashes.

Former congressman Toby Moffett (D-Conn.), a colleague of Livingston's, will chair the joint venture, called PLM Group.

"We will work together to go after some of the big issues and big clients, both domestically and internationally," said Podesta, a top Democratic fundraiser and election-year strategist.

Podesta and Livingston, a Republican, each head their own prominent mid-size lobbying firm. The Podesta Group had $12.1 million in lobbying revenue in 2006; the Livingston Group had $11.7 million in revenue.

But both firms are dwarfed by the major powerhouses of K Street, especially the law firms Patton Boggs and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, each of which posted more than $25 million in lobbying income last year.

The Podesta-Livingston alliance is designed to allow the two firms to offer both brains and brawn comparable to these behemoths. The joint venture will also balance their partisan proclivities. The Podesta Group tilts Democratic, and the Livingston Group leans Republican.

"There are a whole plethora of large corporations that, as a knee jerk, go to the big firms for representation," Livingston said. The alliance "gives us the presence of a big firm, though with a different business model."

Podesta and Livingston plan to market themselves as strategists who can devise broad legislative efforts and who have at their disposal the manpower required to carry out their plans. Each firm has about 20 lobbyists on staff; Livingston also has more than 40 consultants.

This full-service concept is a recognition that most significant lobbying campaigns are handled by coalitions controlled by ad hoc managers. It's rare for a single interest group or corporation to run such multifaceted crusades on its own. Podesta and Livingston said they envision both firms keeping their individual clients while sharing a small number of domestic-issue campaigns and foreign governments.

The principals have not yet tested their strategy. Although they have 30 "prime targets," they have not begun to solicit them. The two firms have big clients on their own -- and sometimes together. Livingston represents Verizon and the nation of Turkey. Podesta lobbies for Wal-Mart and Google. They have shared Lockheed Martin and the Investment Company Institute.

The joint venture can be seen as a way for each firm to shore up weaknesses. Livingston, an ex-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has been moving his business away from lobbying for so-called earmarks -- narrow interest amendments that are being cut in half this year in reaction to past excesses. Podesta is eager to make up ground he lost when his former partner, Daniel J. Mattoon, a Republican, split from the firm Jan. 1. Some major clients such as Altria, the U.S. Telecom Association and United Airlines are now with Mattoon & Associates.

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