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Firms Offer Tasty Morsels to Blue Dogs’ Top Aides

Roll Call Staff
by Anna Palmer

K Street is throwing more than a bone to Blue Dog Coalition members’ top aides looking to go downtown.

As the 52-member group of fiscally conservative, pro-business Democrats has emerged as a powerful voting bloc on major legislation this Congress, lobbying prospects for Blue Dogs’ senior aides have also grown.

While K Street has been looking to expand its Democratic ties since the beginning of the year, in recent weeks lobby shops have been pouncing on potential Blue Dog hires.

Stacey Alexander and Drew Goesl are the most recent senior Blue Dog staffers to head to K Street.

Alexander, chief of staff to Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah), exited last week for the all-Democratic firm Elmendorf Strategies. Alexander, who will focus on health care and trade, is returning to K Street. She formerly worked as a senior associate at APCO Worldwide.

Goesl, former chief of staff to Blue Dog Rep. Mike Ross (Ark.), joined the lobbying boutique Capitol Counsel at the beginning of the month.

The exodus of Blue Dog staffers started at the beginning of the year when Libby Greer left Rep. Allen Boyd’s (Fla.) office at the end of January after nearly eight years.

Greer, who joined Cauthen Forbes & Williams as a senior vice president, was in charge of Boyd’s legislative and political operations. Greer also helped Boyd, who was co-chairman of the coalition in the 110th Congress, develop political strategy for the conservative Democrats. Her move downtown wasn’t surprising to many K Streeters, who got to know Greer as she aided Boyd’s fundraising efforts as co-chairman of the Blue Dog political action committee.

Ryan Guthrie quickly followed Greer. Guthrie, former chief of staff to Rep. Baron Hill (Ind.), is a K Street alumnus. He spent a decade as an aide to Hill and did a two-year stint as a lobbyist at mCapitol Management when Hill was out of Congress before returning to Capitol Hill in 2007. In February, he joined the Bockorny Group as a vice president.

David Burns, an aide to Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.), also left this year to join Prudential’s Washington, D.C., office.

Lobbyists have long tried to curry favor with Blue Dogs. Since the 2006 elections, the Blue Dog PAC has become one of the fastest growing. The group’s annual fall retreat is always a sought-after event.

But the number of former Blue Dog aides who have migrated to K Street has remained small. The list includes Jeff Murray, former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Bud Cramer (Ala.) who went to the C2 Group; Gordon Taylor, former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Chris John (La.) who went to Ogilvy Government Relations; and Beau Schuyler, Tanner’s former legislative director who went to Capitol Hill Strategies.

There also are several former Blue Dog members, like former Texas Reps. Charles Stenholm of Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz and Jim Turner of Arnold & Porter, who now lobby.

The desire to have lobbyists with Blue Dog credentials isn’t surprising among K Street insiders.

“Any effective lobbying organization needs to have ties with the Blue Dogs because any time a deal is cut on any federal spending bill you can be assured the Blue Dogs are going to be right in the middle of the debate,” said Kelly Bingel of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. Bingel served as chief of staff for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.).

Blue Dog staffers and aides to the more liberal New Democrats are in high demand as those groups have taken a higher profile negotiating deals on cap-and-trade and health care legislation.

The Blue Dogs and New Democrats also worked together to scrap cram-down legislation from a housing bill earlier this year and more recently have joined forces to try to rid health care legislation of the public insurance option.

“The unpredictability has led to an interest in those members and that creates demand,” said one former Blue Dog staffer-turned-lobbyist.

“It also has to do with the fact that timing is everything,” the lobbyist added. “A lot of folks suffered through some very lean years in the minority, and they wanted to come down when there weren’t a lot of opportunities.”

Headhunters say they have struggled to place Democrats in senior positions on K Street given the dearth of senior management experience among Democratic Hill staffers and the number of Democratic aides who have decided to stay on the Hill in hopes of getting a position in the administration or remaining as a top staffer in the majority party.

Blue Dog staffers are also more likely to get recruited because of their pro-business stances and the fact that they are more likely to be a good fit in corporate America, according to one headhunter.

“Also, if you look at people who are not viewed as overly partisan that’s a twofer, if things do change and the House and Senate tightens up,” the headhunter said.

To view original story http://www.rollcall.com/issues/55_26/lobbying/38561-1.html

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