Lott and Breaux Open Bipartisan Lobbying Firm

(By Bill Haber -- Associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 5, 2008

Former senators John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) are opening a new, all-in-the-family lobbying firm, saying the capital and its corporate suitors are "yearning" for bipartisan solutions to gridlock.

Revealing what had been one of the worst-kept secrets in town, the senators said in an interview that they would officially launch the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group next week, with both their sons and Lott's former top aide joining them.

Breaux and Lott, who together have more than 70 years of experience in the House and Senate, first talked about such a partnership decades ago when they lived across the street from one another in Annandale. The families remain very close, with Chet Lott and John Breaux Jr. serving as groomsmen in each other's weddings.

The professional marriage had been assumed a foregone conclusion among K Street insiders since Lott announced Nov. 26 that he was retiring from the Senate less than a year after starting a six-year term. Days later, Breaux announced he was leaving the large lobbying firm Patton Boggs to form his own small shop.

Lott, by Senate rules, was not allowed to officially negotiate his contract until after he retired on Dec. 18. The Hill newspaper recently reported that in mid-October, Chet Lott bought the Web site domain name "breauxlott.com," but the former senators said they were not involved in serious talks until after Lott retired.

Leaving before the end of the year allowed Lott to escape a new, more restrictive revolving-door statute that prohibits former senators and their top aides from lobbying the Senate for two years. That law took effect Dec. 31. Lott and his former chief of staff, Bret K. Boyles, will instead be able to directly lobby the Senate after a one-year cooling-off period.

Lott, who is 66, dismissed that as his prime motivation for retiring, saying most of his new business would be "strategic consulting" for corporate clients seeking to navigate the Capitol, rather than direct lobbying of former colleagues.

"It wasn't a big factor in my decision but every time you delay [retirement] by a year or two, it puts the decision that much further down the road," he said.

Lott said he wanted to start a firm that is both small and bipartisan. "It just made sense from that standpoint, and [bipartisanship] is what people are yearning for," he said.

Both former senators served on the Finance and Commerce committees, and Lott was GOP leader from 1996 through 2002. He was pushed out of leadership after he made controversial remarks praising the 1948 segregationist presidential campaign of the late Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). But he later restored his image and was elected minority whip in late 2006.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company