As he begins to wind down a half-century career as one of Washington’s preeminent lobbyists, Tommy Boggs sees signs that his profession is coming full circle.
Tommy Boggs (Richard A. Bloom)Back in the 1960s, Boggs — son of the late Lindy Boggs, who represented Louisiana in the House for 18 years, and veteran Rep. Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., who served a term as House majority leader before he disappeared in a 1972 plane crash in Alaska — was a staffer on Capitol Hill, an aide in the Johnson White House, and then a rookie lawyer in what would become the formidable firm of Patton Boggs. It was during this time that he realized there were only a few dozen true power players in the capital. “When I started in this game, lobbying was basically relationships,” says Boggs, now 73, seated in his M Street office overlooking Georgetown. “And you didn’t have to have a lot of relationships, because not many people ran the government.”
Things started to change after Watergate, when the White House turned inward, and more people in the legislative and executive branches extended their reach. “And, of course,” he says, “Congress, instead of being run by a handful of people, is run by 535 people.”
“The result being that literally in the early ‘70s, you needed — pick your number — 100 lobbyists to lobby 25 people, because 25 people ran the government,” he continues. “Today you need how many lobbyists to lobby 10,000 people? “¦ Now there are 100,000 people in the influence business. Direct lobbyists — you probably have 13,000 to 14,000.”
And yet, with the growth of grassroots lobbying efforts that aim to mobilize average Americans — and the resulting pressure on lawmakers from email blitzes, bloggers, and social media — Boggs sees personal relationships in Washington returning to the fore. “Because if I get 10,000 emails on a subject and I’m the chief of staff to somebody, I’ve got to have somebody I can call that I have some relationship of trust [with] and say, ‘What does this all mean?’ It’s kind of coming back to where relationships are very important.”
Boggs is currently facing one of the biggest challenges of his life’s work: managing the merger of Patton Boggs with Squire Sanders, a Cleveland-based firm with a large international presence. The new Squire Patton Boggs will be headquartered in Washington, with Boggs as chairman emeritus helping to oversee a staff of more than 1,700. “The merger gives us a platform around the world — locations in 40 cities, half overseas,” he says. “It’s a much better platform for us.”
When the merger was approved in May, there were reports that it was fueled by a 6.5 percent decline in revenues for Patton Boggs, to around $317 million in 2012. The firm has taken some big financial hits in recent years — including a $15 million settlement with Chevron this spring over a case in Ecuador that went sour, and the sudden end to litigation by September 11 World Trade Center first responders when Congress set up a compensation fund for those suffering health problems. The firm had been representing New York City in the case, a client that was paying $40 million to $50 million a year in legal fees, according to Boggs.
But he says the main reason for the merger is that his firm realized more than a year ago that it needed a stronger West Coast presence to serve its Middle East clients, who are investing more in California and other Western states. “We knew we needed a bigger footprint,” he says. As for his own future, Boggs says he isn’t ready to retire just yet, but after the merger is completed in the next year or two, “then maybe I might slow down.”
American Farmland Trust
Laura Trivers (Richard A. Bloom)Fresh out of Duke University in 1989, Laura Trivers of Tennessee came to Washington without a job and began knocking on doors on Capitol Hill. “A week later, I was Al Gore’s deputy press secretary,” she says, referring to the then-senator from her home state. Trivers worked for Gore for two years, did a stint for a House member, and then rejoined Gore’s staff when he was vice president. “I wrote the daily briefing book,” she says. Later she worked at the Agriculture Department, first on food and nutrition issues and then as deputy press secretary to Secretary Dan Glickman. Trivers, now 47, left the working world in 1999 to stay home with her two young children for seven years. After a return to food and agriculture issues as a part-time consultant, she resumed a full-time career last month, joining the American Farmland Trust as director of marketing and communications.
At the Bar
Alan Lieberman (Chet Susslin)Born and raised on the Jersey Shore, Alan Lieberman, 67, had pretty much done it all in the legal profession before joining the Securities and Exchange Commission staff in 2004. He was a judge’s clerk in Philadelphia, an assistant U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania, and a partner in two big law firms, Schnader Harrison and Blank Rome. At the SEC, he was trial counsel and investigator on numerous cases sprinkled throughout a 10-year tenure that was highlighted by the prosecution of fraud king Bernie Madoff. “There’s been a real sea change at the SEC as a result of him,” Lieberman says. “I had a terrific experience at the SEC. It’s not an easy space they occupy.” Last month, Lieberman returned to Blank Rome, this time as a partner in the firm’s corporate-litigation group. “When the SEC comes calling, I want the first call to be to Blank Rome and me,” he says.
U.S. Council for International Business
Eva Hampl (Richard A. Bloom)The United States Council for International Business is headquartered in New York City to be near the United Nations, but its Washington presence is growing by leaps and bounds in an era of expanding global trade. One of the new faces is Eva Hampl, 32, a native of Munich, was educated in the United States, earning a master’s in intellectual-property rights from Suffolk University Law School in Boston. After working for the European Union delegation to the U.S. and then for the Senate Finance Committee under former Chairman Max Baucus, Hampl landed a fellowship in General Electric’s Washington office, focused on global government affairs and policy. That led her this spring to USCIB’s D.C. office as the new director of investment, trade, and financial services. According to USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson, “She brings valuable knowledge and experience in treaties and regulations affecting cross-border commerce.”