For Gephardt, a New Career in Lobbying -- and a Lot More

Out of the House and loving it: former congressman Richard A. Gephardt.
Out of the House and loving it: former congressman Richard A. Gephardt. (By Jim Bryant -- Associated Press)
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

R ichard A. Gephardt used to be the Democratic leader in the House and a presidential candidate. Now he's Gephardt Inc.

The 14-term congressman from St. Louis retired from Congress in 2005 and went off to do what senior lawmakers do these days -- lobby. Or that's what it looked like at the time. In fact, he has done a lot more than that.

Gephardt works for DLA Piper, one of the world's largest law firms; Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street's richest investment banks; FTI, a leading corporate turnaround adviser; and Gephardt Group, a consultancy he started with his two children.

Most people know that life after Congress can be very lucrative, and it certainly has been for Gephardt, 66, who just built a house in Sonoma County, Calif. But few people know what that work entails. In Gephardt's case, it involves an astonishing array of projects. He has brokered labor settlements, cleared the way for corporate acquisitions, represented a foreign country and pushed for cutting-edge health programs -- only some of which fit the stereotype of lobbying, the former lawmaker and his new colleagues say.

In 2005, Gephardt helped smooth the way for the purchase of a Boeing subsidiary by a Canadian private equity firm by persuading the machinists union to accept major concessions in exchange for part ownership in the company. That turned out to be a good deal when the company went public and the workers got a hefty payout.

Gephardt had earned the trust of both Boeing and the union by working closely with them when he was in Congress. That relationship came in handy again in 2005 when he helped settle a strike by the union at Boeing. At a day-long bargaining session, Gephardt used to great effect his talent for sitting and listening, a trait that led fellow lawmakers to nickname him "Lead Butt."

Later, Gephardt praised Alan Mulally, Boeing's executive vice president, to the chairman of Ford, a client of Goldman Sachs. And by doing so, he eased Ford's selection of Mulally as its president in 2006.

Indeed, a lot of what Gephardt does is an extension of what he used to do, especially in Congress. Only now he has paying clients from the private sector.

Health care was a specialty of his on Capitol Hill. These days he's talking up an extension of Medicare to younger workers as a way for unions and management to save money. He's also acting as a go-between on the issue of energy, aiding alternative-energy firms that want to do business with government and public utilities.

Some of Gephardt's work is straightforward lobbying. For DLA Piper, he represents the government of Turkey and attends client events designed to drum up business. (He is also registered as a foreign agent for Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates, but he has done nothing for them and may drop the registrations.)

For others, he acts more as a matchmaker or a policy guru. For FTI, he advises companies and private equity firms on how best to deal with labor unions. For Goldman Sachs, he works with public entities that might want to sell toll roads and bridges or buy alternative-energy technology.

Gephardt Group is his home base. He lobbies and consults mostly on labor relations and alternative energy with son Matthew, 36, daughter Chrissy, 34, and longtime congressional chief of staff Thomas J. O'Donnell.

Gephardt said he's happy with his new life -- "I get my weekends off for the first time in 30 years" -- and has no intention of returning to government. "I enjoyed public life. I got many rewards from it. It was a great career," he said. "I now have another career, and for me it would be a very bad mistake to go back into government."

Certainly he has plenty to do.

Wall Street Job Search -- Again

The troubled Wall Street trade association known as SIFMA is at it again. After only nine months in existence, it's already looking for a new chief executive -- its third.

The organization -- the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association -- was formed last November through the merger of two groups that represented stock and bond traders. The largest and loudest voice for Wall Street, it was run initially by the two former heads of the merged organizations.

But in March, Micah S. Green, 49, who previously led the bond traders group, resigned abruptly. SIFMA said at the time that it had decided it would do better with a single top executive. Later, under pressure, it acknowledged that Green left after an internal probe uncovered loose financial procedures at the bond association. Green, a million-dollar-a-year executive, had obtained $240,000 in short-term advances over three years that should have required board approval.

Now SIFMA is looking for a new leader to replace its remaining chief executive, Marc E. Lackritz, 60. "For some time, I've eyed 2008, whether we merged or not, as an ideal jumping-off point for my 'next chapter,' " Lackritz said yesterday in a letter to the staff that announced his retirement.

But industry insiders wonder privately whether that's the full story. Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, had pushed for the merger as a way to boost its influence in Washington, and Green, once Lackritz's likely successor, was seen as a Goldman ally. Whoever is chosen now -- and Spencer Stuart, the executive search firm, is looking -- will probably have to work well with Goldman and, for a change, stick around awhile.

Hire of the Week

Walter O. Pryor is the type of person most in demand on K Street. He's not only an experienced congressional staffer, he is also a moderate, pro-business Democrat.

That makes it easy for him to pitch for corporate interests, and it's a strong part of the reason the Podesta Group grabbed him up when he decided to leave Capitol Hill. He is now a principal in the firm.

As is common in these cases, Pryor shares his politics with his former congressional bosses. He also shares something else with them: his name.

Prior to joining the Podesta Group, Pryor, 42, worked for two other Pryors: Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and, before that, Mark Pryor's father, then-Sen. David H. Pryor (D-Ark.). He is not related to the lawmakers.

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