By Jason Horowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Good morning, you've reached the offices of Cheney, Cheney & Cheney.
Mary Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney and the sister of go-to Obama critic Liz Cheney, is leaving the political consulting firm Navigators Global to start her own consulting company, and multiple sources familiar with her plans say she will not be going it alone.
"She told me she is going to be starting a firm with her dad and sister," said one friend of Mary's, with whom she has shared her plans.
For now, the only official word is that Cheney, who is expecting her second child with her partner, Heather Poe, in November, will leave Navigators Global at the end of the month.
"She has been a fantastic member of our team, and we are excited for her and wish her well in her new venture," said Phil Anderson, the president of Navigators Global. Asked whether her departure had anything to do with the baggage the Cheney name bears in a town where Democrats control the levers of power, Anderson demurred. "Not at all," he said.
Anderson punted questions about Cheney's plans to Lucy Tutwiler, a spokeswoman for the Cheney family at the American Enterprise Institute -- the conservative think tank where her mother, Lynne, works and where the former vice president sits as a board member.
"Mary is starting an independent strategic consulting firm," Tutwiler confirmed.
And the rest of the family? "Liz is not involved," said Tutwiler, referring to Mary's older sister, who is quickly becoming a familiar face on the cable television and lecture circuit. "She is spending all of her time helping Vice President Cheney write his book."
That's the much-awaited "tome," as described by Mary Matalin, the Cheney intimate and former aide who is publishing it as the hoped-for blockbuster for Threshold Editions, her new Simon & Schuster imprint.
The Cheneys have, of course, found time to become something of their own brand -- a highly bookable, consistently gruff clan who speak in dour unison when bashing the current president, second-guessing the previous commander in chief and chiding wayward GOP leaders. Is Mary hanging a shingle now, with the rest to follow in the near future? Tutwiler said she had nothing else to add. Later calls to Tutwiler seeking further comment were not returned.
Mary Cheney's colleagues did have some things to add. "She has told people within the firm that she wants to do something with her father," said a source within Navigators Global. "It's going to be a firm like Kissinger Associates."
"I have heard from people familiar with her plans that she, her father and her sister are working on a new business venture," said another source within the firm.
Navigators Global formed in the midst of the Bush-Cheney dominance of 2003. Those days are long gone.
"We are looking to grow and hit a balance that reflects the town," said Anderson, a veteran Republican consultant. In recent weeks, four senior communications operatives have left, including Rhonda Bentz, Michelle Raines and Rob Stutzman, who has joined Meg Whitman's gubernatorial bid in California. Lobbyist Frank Tillotson has also departed.
In January the firm merged with Roberti Associates to become more bipartisan, by which they mean employable. Democratic operative Tracy Sefl, who jumped from Glover Park Group earlier this year, would now be heading all D.C.-based communications. Harmony Knutson, a former Northeast finance director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has also come on board.
As one attempts to attract clients by taking on a more Democratic face, who would hire a firm that conjures Dick Cheney's?
According to Matalin, a lot of people. "It would be an extraordinary venture and I'm certain a successful one," she said. "I never think the Cheney name is a problem because the Cheney brain is such an asset. I don't know anybody else who got a split screen dueling speech with the president of the United States and beat him."
While Matalin emphasized that she did not know the family's plans, she considered their literary venture a top and all-consuming priority. But after that . . .
"They have every expertise, they have contacts all over the world, they are deep into multiple subject areas," she said. "They know everything from energy to foreign policy to economics to homeland security. And the vice president and Liz are strategic thinkers, and they all have enormous communication skills, they know a lot people and they could pull it together quickly."
Matalin said she could not imagine a Cheney firm engaging in lobbying, or being a strictly political shop. She said she thought the idea of Dick Cheney as a political consultant far-fetched. But Mary Cheney, according to Matalin, is politically savvy, has intimately worked on campaigns in the past and would be fully capable of providing political counsel.
Some other Republicans were considerably less sanguine about the firm's potential and the former vice president's apparent career choice.
"Why can't he learn how to play golf?" said one senior Republican consultant. "It was good enough for Agnew. Why is it not good enough for Dick Cheney? Seriously, he should be working the Jackson Hole/Palm Spings circuit."
The consultant expected that the Cheney firm would receive lots of business from international clients. "Lots of right-wing dictators," said the consultant, who is not a fan of the former vice president.
But Matalin saw the Cheney clientele in a more post-partisan light, saying, "People who would seek the kinds of advice Dick Cheney could provide are not given to ephemeral winds of politics." She added: "The idea of it is an incredible thing."