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Breaux, Nickles & Associates?

As two of the Senate’s most powerful lawmakers near decisions on whether to retire from the chamber, K Street has been buzzing about what could be Washington’s hottest new firm: Breaux-Nickles.

Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), the chamber’s consummate dealmaker, and Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who once served as Majority Whip, are considered to be prime candidates for starting their own lobbying firm if they chose not to run for re-election next year.

Now comes word that the duo has discussed the idea, though apparently not all that seriously.

“We tease each other about it,” Nickles said in an interview last week, not exactly confirming or denying it.

Nickles, 54 and finishing his fourth term, said he has enjoyed his years in the Senate, but “frankly I need to decide if I want to do this forever.” He will make a decision by the end of next month.

Breaux, 59 and wrapping up his third term, declined to discuss the possibility of setting up a firm with Nickles. “I haven’t decided if I’m running again, so until I do there’s nothing to talk about,” he said.

Breaux has said that he will make a decision on re-election after voters in Louisiana elect a new governor later this year.

Many on K Street say the pair could make a bundle by representing home-state oil and gas interests on Capitol Hill, as well as reeling in tax clients because they both currently serve on the vaunted Finance Committee.

“They would be a very good pair together,” said former Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), who left the Senate at the helm of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to start his own firm.

Not all agree. A few lobbyists said the powerful pair may overlap too much in their skill sets to draw a diverse enough book of business.

What’s more, they would need to draw in as many as a dozen lucrative clients in their first year to cover their overhead and the salaries of some junior lobbyists — expenses that could cost more than $1 million a year, according to lobbyists who run smaller shops.

“It’s big odds against them both leaving, and bigger odds against them getting together,” insisted one lobbyist.

Asked about the possibility, Nickles joked, “We probably won’t have an office open before next year.”

The “K” is for Kuykendall Street. While Breaux and Nickles are still mulling their options, former Rep. Steven Kuykendall (R-Calif.) has decided to join Washington’s ranks of rainmakers.

The former two-term Member from suburban Los Angeles joined Strategic Marketing Innovations, a mid-sized firm that specializes in legislative and appropriations work for companies and universities.

In his years in Congress, Kuykendall served on the Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure panels.

He lost to Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) in 2000 by less than 5,000 votes.

Cassidy Adds Sweeney Aide. Betsy Ide has left the office of Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) to join Cassidy & Associates, one of the leading lobbying firms on Capitol Hill.

Ide most recently handled appropriations work for Sweeney, focusing on education and health care.

At Cassidy, Ide will assist with corporate clients’ needs on those same issues.

ABC Names New Director. The Associated Builders and Contractors announced that Geoff Burr has been named director of legislative affairs.

Burr became the group’s legal coordinator in May 2000 and was promoted to the position of state affairs coordinator in January 2002.

Prior to joining the association, Burr was a litigation assistant at the law firm Dombroff & Gilmore.

Venable Steals From the SEC. Venable LLP has hired departing Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Mark Braswell as a partner.

Braswell joined the commission in 1995 as a staff attorney in the enforcement division. He later was promoted to senior counsel in 1996 and then to branch chief in May 1999, where he served as a member of the division’s senior staff and supervised a number of SEC investigations.

Inga Beyer contributed to this report.

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