Climate change lobbying dominated by 10 firms

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Hundreds of lobbyists are cramming into Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building this week for the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s mark-up of landmark legislation to curb global warming through a complex cap-and-trade system. But some of those lobbyists will carry a bit more weight — or at least a heftier client list — than others.

A new analysis of Senate disclosure records by The Center for Public Integrity shows that more than 880 businesses and interest groups registered to lobby on climate change in the first quarter of 2009 — up more than 14 percent over the same time last year. But just 10 lobbying firms have amassed such large client lists that they represent nearly 100 of those business interests — including some of the biggest trade organizations and companies most active in the debate. Here are the top 10 firms representing climate change interests, by number of clients. Most of them boast lobbying teams heavy with former government officials and Capitol Hill staffers.

Alpine Group — 13 Clients
It’s no surprise that Alpine Group tops the list, given its environment and energy pedigree. The shop was co-founded in 1996 by Richard White, former legislative coordinator for the late Rhode Island Senator John Chafee, a Republican who often bucked his party as an environmental champion, and by James Massie, a longtime energy lobbyist. Alpine Group’s stable of climate lobbyists includes former House Energy and Commerce Committee Democratic aide Courtney Johnson, former Senate Appropriations Republican staffer Les Spivey, and former staffers for three of the moderate Democratic Senators whose votes hang in the balance on climate legislation: Jason Schendle (former staffer to Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana), Charles Barnett (Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas), and Rhod Shaw (Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio). Alpine Group’s list of 13 climate clients includes Ford, BP America, BNSF Railway, 3M, Duke Energy, and NRG Energy.

Ogilvy Government Relations — 13 Clients
The firm formerly known at the Federalist Group has made its name as one of Washington’s premier lobby shops since being acquired in 2005 by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. Stewart Hall, a former legislative director for Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, founded the firm and directs its operations. Joining him in representing some of the biggest oil and chemical groups — the American Petroleum Institute and the American Chemistry Council, as well as power companies and agriculture groups — are other former congressional staffers. That group includes Julie Dammann, one-time chief of staff to Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond, a Missouri Republican, as well as Dean Aguillen, a key former staffer to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat. Reliant Energy, Chevron, Monsanto, and the National Milk Producers Federation count themselves among Ogilvy clients.

Patton Boggs LLP — 11 Clients
If you’re a city, county, or municipal organization seeking a share of the revenue stream that a cap-and-trade system might create — like San Diego or King County, Washington — then international law firm Patton Boggs is the place to go. Patton Boggs represented 10 local governments in the first quarter, in addition to chemical manufacturer INEOS. Nearing a half-century old, Patton Boggs has been the King of K Street since it eclipsed Cassidy & Associates as the highest-paid lobbying firm in 2003, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Patton’s pair of municipally-minded climate lobbyists: Tanya DeRivi, a former adviser to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Marek Gootman, a former adviser on community development policy and intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Morgan Meguire, LLC — 11 Clients
This specialized firm is led by Deborah Sliz, who started her Washington career in the late 1970s as counsel to one of Capitol Hill’s most legendary environmental advocates, the late Arizona Democratic Representative Morris Udall — whose son, Mark, is now Colorado’s freshman Democratic senator. Sliz later headed up lobbying for the American Public Power Association, and the firm’s climate clients indeed include some of the nation’s biggest public and consumer-owned water and power utility groups. Among them are Southern California’s Imperial Irrigation District, the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association, and the Northwest Public Power Association. Another Morgan Meguire climate lobbyist, Karen Zanoff, came to the firm after serving as House Energy and Commerce Committee adviser to former Missouri Democratic Representative Karen McCarthy.

McBee Strategic Consulting — 10 Clients
The client list at McBee Strategic Consulting is diverse, and so are its lobbyists. McBee’s roster includes a bipartisan pair of former counsel to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (Democrat Samuel Whitehorn and Republican Robert Chamberlin) and a bipartisan pair of former legislative aides to Washington state’s members of Congress, including name partner Steve McBee. McBee worked for then-Representative and current Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington. Ashley Slater served as director of legislative affairs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality under President George W. Bush, while her colleague Glynda Becker also served that administration as associate political director in the White House Office of Political Affairs. McBee’s clients include a wide array of companies from JPMorgan Chase to Boeing and Eastman Chemical. The Port of Seattle, the American Trucking Associations, and alternative energy firm Akermin are among other clients.

Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli and Berzok, LLP — 9 Clients
The first two name partners at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli and Berzok both have close ties to the House Energy and Commerce committee. Thomas M. Ryan worked as a Democratic aide to the committee, while fellow partner Jeff MacKinnon served as legislative director to Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican and current ranking minority member of the committee. The firm represents the giant association of investor-owned electric power companies, Edison Electric Institute, and large electric power and oil companies, including Southern Company, Entergy and Sunoco, as well as the Association of American Railroads.

Bracewell & Giuliani LLP — 9 Clients
Some of the nation’s largest coal-intensive power companies, including Southern Company, Duke Energy, and Energy Future Holdings, as well as coal-hauling rail company CSX, are on the climate client roster of Bracewell & Guiliani. The firm’s renowned name partner is former New York mayor and Republican Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, who joined Bracewell in 2005. But the energy and climate lobbying team in Washington has long been led by attorney Scott Segal, who was joined in recent years by two of the George W. Bush administration’s senior appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency, Jeffrey Holmstead and Edward Krenik.

Alcalde & Fay — 8 Clients
The so-called “super-greenhouse gases” are the focus of Alcalde & Fay’s lobbying work. Not carbon dioxide, but an array of gases thousands of times more potent in trapping heat in the atmosphere. These hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used widely in refrigeration and air conditioning, have been favored as substitutes for the chlorofluorocarbons phased out as ozone-depleting substances under the 1987 Montreal Protocol. But their global warming potential has been a cause for worry, and a possible phase-down of these gases is one of the issues lawmakers are grappling with. Alcalde & Fay’s two lead climate lobbyists, Kevin Fay and David Stirpe, worked on regulatory controversies before — they both were previously counsel to the Safe Buildings Alliance, the asbestos lobby. On climate, they represent the HFC manufacturer and user group, the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, as well as several of the group’s members, including Dow Agrosciences, American Pacific, and the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute.

Colling Swift & Hynes — 7 Clients
With former Democratic Congressman Allan Swift leading the climate lobbying effort, this firm has been a magnet for companies from an industry of historic importance to his home state of Washington — the paper business. Clients include Rock-Tenn Company, The Newark Group, White Pigeon Paper, and Smurfit-Stone Container. The firm also represents the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Other experienced Washington, D.C., hands at Colling Swift include Louis Hengen, once an aide to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and Frances McPoland, who coordinated federal recycling and waste reduction programs in President Clinton’s White House.

Hunton & Williams LLP — 7 Clients
Two former Republican counsel to the House Energy and Commerce committee are weighing in on its current climate legislation at Hunton & Williams. Mark Menezes and Joseph C. Stanko are among the climate lobbyists working on behalf of electric power clients including First Energy, as well as the Gas Processors Association, manufacturer Koch Industries, and railroad company CSX. Hunton & Williams represented utilities on the losing side in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the court determined that the agency could regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. However, that issue is now very much in play for the firm’s climate lobbying clients on Capitol Hill, as the proposed Waxman-Markey legislation would take away EPA’s power — putting into place the cap-and-trade system to control greenhouse gases instead.

CORRECTION: Samuel Whitehorn of McBee Strategic Consulting was incorrectly identified in the Center’s report as a former Republican counsel to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. In fact, Whitehorn served as Democratic minority aviation counsel to that committee under Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina, and as the committee’s minority Deputy Staff Director under Senator Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii.

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