A Special Interests item on the Sept. 29 Federal Page described the Missouri law firm Polsinelli Shalton Welte Suelthaus as an Ohio firm. (Published 9/30/2005)

Campaign finance and election law certainly seems a natural specialty for a Washington law firm, but there are only a handful of major players: Wiley Rein, Perkins Coie, Skadden Arps, Patton Boggs most often come to mind.

Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, an Ohio-based firm, wants to join their ranks -- and is making a big splash with the signing of Bradley A. Smith, the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission.

The firm had already made a commitment to growing the practice when in the past year it hired Brett G. Kappel, a longtime election-law specialist, to join Randal C. Teague in Washington. Kappel and Teague also lobby, but Smith says he has no plans to do so.

Smith, who worked at the firm before joining the FEC, and Joseph D. Lonardo, managing partner of the D.C. office, say the plan is to create a bipartisan group. They note that Wiley Rein is known for its Republican lawyers and Perkins Coie for its Democrats.

Smith, a Republican, has been known for his strong criticism of much of federal campaign finance regulation. But he says he would be willing to represent Democratic and liberal clients and notes that left-wing bloggers were pleased with his opposition to regulation of their Internet activities.

"By nature, most of what you do . . . is help the client to comply with the law," Smith said. "You better have an argument that fits with law, not with what you would like it to be."

Lonardo said some of the firm's big corporate clients are concerned about complying with the complicated McCain-Feingold campaign finance law enacted in March 2002.

Because of ethics restrictions, Smith won't be able to represent clients before the FEC for a year.

From Homeland Security to a Homecoming

Alston & Bird has scored a major coup in the Washington rush to hire homeland security experts. The firm has signed Joe Whitley, the Department of Homeland Security's first general counsel. It's a homecoming for Whitley, who was a partner at the firm before joining the newly formed agency in 2003.

"I promised my wife I would not stay there more than about two years," Whitley said.

Though he has a one-year prohibition on contacting the DHS, Whitley will be working with the firm's government relations group and developing "a global security and enforcement practice."

Whitley and Frank "Rusty" M. Conner III, partner in charge of the D.C. office, said the practice will advise clients on a variety of security concerns, from immigration and customs to energy, privacy and critical infrastructure.

Alston & Bird is also home to former Senate leaders Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.).

Another Move From DHS

Speaking of homeland security, A. Bailey Wood Jr., formerly communications director of the House Homeland Security Committee, has joined Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations. The head of the homeland security team is Jerome Hauer, former head of emergency preparedness for New York City under then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

PR Group to Strive for a 'Campaign Mentality'

Three communications and political veterans have launched a strategic communications and public affairs shop, the Herald Group. The principals are Matt Well, director of public affairs for the Securities and Exchange Commission; Taylor Gross, a Bush White House spokesman; and Doug McGinn, who worked at Dittus Communications and earlier at Empower America.

Well says they want to bring "a campaign mentality" to strategic communications and public affairs by integrating communications, lobbying, grass-roots mobilization and other disciplines to influence public policy.

Ohio Law Firm Opens Shop in D.C.

The Ohio firm of Polsinelli Shalton Welte Suelthaus is coming to Washington by acquiring veteran lobbyist Jim Davidson and his Davidson & Co., and raiding DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary for two lawyers.

Its law office here will be filled by William D. Blakely, who represented the family of the late commerce secretary Ronald H. Brown in litigation following the fatal crash of his Air Force plane in Croatia, and Carol Guy-Jackson.

Davidson is bringing on Teddy Eynon from the DCI Group. Eynon worked on the independent counsel investigation of former Housing and Urban Development secretary Henry Cisneros.

Davidson's stable of clients includes General Mills, Kraft Foods, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Newspaper Association of America, the Magazine Publishers of America, and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Strengthening Political Portfolios

Also moving about town . . . DLA Piper Rudnick has signed Kevin O'Scannlain, formerly senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. His new colleagues include former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine), and former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.).

The acquisition by Financial Dynamics of Westhill Partners, a firm that advises companies, executives and elected officials on crisis, policy and communications, has brought over two folks from Westhill's D.C. office: James Ratchford and Erik Smith, former senior communications adviser to then-Rep. Gephardt.