Outgoing members head to new jobs at law and lobby firms

By Amanda Becker
Monday, January 10, 2011

The door between Capitol Hill and K Street is revolving quickly these days.

Last week, as the new Congress made its official debut, several prominent outgoing lawmakers announced plans to join high-profile law and lobby firms in the District, staffers from both sides of the aisle announced plans to move into the private sector and some K Streeters departed firms to return to the Hill.

Those familiar with the industry say the flux is typical of the weeks following an election and will likely continue over the coming weeks as area associations look to fill senior roles and firms hammer out the details of deals that will bring in former members of Congress.

The former lawmakers

Four lawmakers announced plans last week to join law firms with a presence here in the District. Missouri Republican senator Christopher S. Bond announced he would practice in the St. Louis and Washington offices of Thompson Coburn as a lawyer, not a lobbyist; outgoing representative Artur Davis (D-Ala.) joined the local white-collar defense practice at SNR Denton; former representative Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) joined the local office of Alston & Bird along with his chief of staff, Bob Siggins; and former representative Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.) will work from Fox Rothschild's offices in his home state. Two more, Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), announced plans to teach at law schools in their home states.

Even given the recent influx of Republican lawmakers, outgoing centrist Democrats are in demand as firms prepare for a divided Congress. Former Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln, retiring Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, departing Illinois representative Melissa Bean and departing Tennessee representatives John Tanner and Bart Gordon are among those who have yet to announce future plans.

"There's been a lot of interest in Blue Dogs, who are going to have multiple options available to them on where they work next," said Ivan Adler, a consultant at the McCormick Group who oversees government affairs placements.

The staffers

Former Hill staffers are also joining and returning to the influence industry at a fast clip, particularly those from committee and lawmaker offices that will play an influential role during the next Congress.

The exodus began in mid-December, when Brendan Daly, communications director for former House speaker and current Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), joined Ogilvy Public Relations as national director of public affairs. Last week, the government relations group at Ogilvy announced the firm had also nabbed Mike Hogan, former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a key Democratic holdout during the health care vote. Ogilvy also picked up Steve Tilton, a former vice president at both PhRMA and the Advanced Medical Technology Association, in anticipation of challenges to the health care overhaul during the 112th Congress.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has added to the firm's government relations and natural resources groups. The firm recruited Ryan A. Smith, most recently legislative counsel to Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), to counsel clients on natural resources litigation, Indian law and other issues. Jon Hrobsky joined the firm's public policy practice from the National Oceans Industries Association.

Van Scoyoc Associates is on the hunt for potential hires after several of its members left to form the education-oriented Penn Hill Group. The lobby shop has already brought on Jessica Gross, a former legislative assistant to former representative Michael N. Castle (R-Del.) on education and labor issues, and confirmed it would be extending more offers over the upcoming weeks.

The public policy group at Holland & Knight is also in growth mode. Kerry Feehery, recently chief of staff to former senator George S. LeMieux (R-Fla.) and a specialist in health care and technology issues, is joining the firm at the end of January. Lauri Hettinger, former staffer to former senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), came to Holland & Knight last month. Practice group leader Rich Gold expects to add as many as eight new positions overall, a 10 percent increase in staffing.

"We're very bullish in the public policy environment and expect revenue growth in the 10 to 15 percent range over the next year," Gold said.

K&L Gates, Arent Fox and McAllister & Quinn are among the other firms looking for talent.

Returning to the Hill

Associations, corporate public affairs departments and lobby shops are also looking to fill positions vacated by those who have announced plans to return to the Hill.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hired his policy director, Brett Loper, from the Advanced Medical Technology Association, which in turn hired Gary Karr from Edelman as its executive vice president for public affairs. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hired away Time Warner lobbyist Tim Berry as his chief of staff; Berry was a top aide to convicted money launderer Tom DeLay.

Republican-leaning shop BGR Government Affairs bade farewell to two of its members, with Eric Burgeson joining the office of Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) as chief of staff and Gina Santucci filling the same role in the office of Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.). Bringing in talent to fill the gap is one of the firm's active priorities.

"With two of our colleagues returning to Capitol Hill, and a surge in calls by potential clients, we are in active discussions with several people on and off Capitol Hill about joining our lobbying team and we expect to be make additional announcements in the weeks ahead," principal Loren L. Monroe said.

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