From One K Street Roost to Another

Darryl Nirenberg moved from Patton Boggs to Steptoe & Johnson in February 2014.
National Journal
Feb. 6, 2014, 7 a.m.

Pat­ton Boggs may be the biggest lob­by­ing firm in Wash­ing­ton, but it isn’t al­ways the top of the ca­reer lad­der on K Street. Darryl Niren­berg, an 18-year vet­er­an of the power­house firm, is the most re­cent case in point.

Niren­berg, a former top aide to the late Sen. Jesse Helms and a pro­lif­ic fun­draiser for Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates, has moved about 10 blocks east from Pat­ton Boggs to highly re­garded Step­toe & John­son, where he will lead the firm’s Ag­ri­cul­ture, Food, and Trade Work­ing Group.

“It was a great ex­per­i­ence, and I en­joyed every day I was there,” Niren­berg said in an in­ter­view this week, speak­ing of his former firm. “But I’ve worked with Step­toe for years on vari­ous pro­jects, and it fits per­fectly with my prac­tice. They are the quint­es­sen­tial D.C. firm.”

Niren­berg also ad­ded a per­son­al note in a state­ment about his move. “I am es­pe­cially pleased to join the firm, hav­ing been a friend and neigh­bor of (the late Step­toe part­ner) Mark Hulkower. With my of­fice now just steps from the Mark Hulkower Con­fer­ence Room, I am glad to be re­minded every day of his pas­sion for the prac­tice of law, his in­teg­rity, and his cour­age.”

Niren­berg’s path to the lob­by­ing world began with 14 years on Cap­it­ol Hill, in­clud­ing stints as an aide to the late Sen. S.I. Hayakawa, R-Cal­if.; as a staffer for the Sen­ate Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee; and fi­nally as an aide and chief of staff to Helms, R-N.C..

Like so many Hill staffers, Niren­berg, 54, first ex­per­i­enced life in the Cap­it­ol dur­ing a semester at Col­gate Uni­versity when he in­terned for the late Sen. Jac­ob Javits, R-N.Y. He caught the polit­ic­al bug, he said, and scored a job with Hayakawa soon after gradu­ation.

His move to the Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee con­nec­ted Niren­berg with Helms, a vir­tu­al saint among con­ser­vat­ives. Helms died on the Fourth of Ju­ly in 2008, six years after step­ping aside from five terms in the Sen­ate.

Niren­berg de­clined to spec­u­late on wheth­er Helms would be a tea-party act­iv­ist were he alive today, but he fondly re­called the former TV and ra­dio ex­ec­ut­ive’s pas­sion for his role as a sen­at­or. “Helms was a Sen­ate in­sti­tu­tion guy,” Niren­berg said.

Niren­berg “loved every minute of every day” on the Hill, but says he al­ways wanted to fol­low the ca­reer path of his fath­er, a law­yer in up­state New York (Niren­berg grew up in the small town of El­len­ville, on the edge of the Cat­skill Moun­tains). After earn­ing his law de­gree in the even­ings at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­versity, Niren­berg landed at Pat­ton Boggs in 1995.

“I was ab­so­lutely blessed to have the op­por­tun­ity to work with Tom Boggs and more re­cently Trent Lott and John Br­eaux,” he said. “It was the priv­ilege of a life­time.”

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