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Watts Shining Bright on K Street

Less than a year after leaving Capitol Hill, former House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.) is thriving on K Street.

He has started his own firm, The J.C. Watts Co., has signed up more than a dozen clients and inked a deal with one of the world’s largest law firms. And just last week, Watts and his new company moved into their very own digs across the street from Metro Center.

It’s all quite a change for Watts, who left Congress last year after rising to the No. 4 elected position in the House Republican leadership.

On K Street, Watts works on a number of interesting issues. Among other things, the one-time college gridiron star is a chief spokesman for FM Policy Focus, an adviser to the Business Roundtable, and a consultant to the six major NCAA football conferences.

Last month, he signed up another batch of clients, including Luther Speight & Co., Robinson Aviation, Langston University, Syntroleum Corp., the Golden

Hill Paugussett Tribe, Xyant Technologies and the Oklahoma Heart Hospital.

He has also signed a lucrative deal with Hunton & Williams in which he will help the firm haul in new clients.

Watts is assisted by a half-dozen lobbyists, many of whom are longtime aides, including Jon Vandenheuvel and Elroy Sailor.

Though Watts is prohibited from lobbying Members of Congress until one year after his retirement, he remains active in politics.

In addition to serving as chairman of GOPAC — a Republican political organization founded by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) — he has hit the campaign trail in support of GOP candidates around the country. In the past month alone, he has campaigned in Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky and New Jersey.

Calio’s Coup. Nick Calio, the White House’s former chief liaison to Congress who now heads Citicorp’s Washington office, continues to build a solid team around him.

His latest score is Robert Schellhas, the top lobbyist for the American Council of Life Insurers, whom Calio persuaded to join the Citi-fold. Before joining ACLI, Schellhas was a senior aide to a pair of Ohio Republicans, Reps. Rob Portman and John Boehner.

“Bob’s experience working on retirement security issues and with me on the Hill makes him an outstanding addition to Nick Calio’s already strong team at Citigroup,” Portman said.

Schellhas joins Heather Wingate, a former White House aide, and Jimmy Ryan, a one-time top adviser to Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as a new Calio lieutenant on K Street.

Leading By Example. Even for President Bush, it can never hurt to have too much money. So a few dozen current and former Bush aides decided to hold their own fundraiser last week to help the old boss get off to a quick start in the latest fundraising quarter.

The $250-a-ticket event, which was held Thursday at the Georgetown home of Nancy and Allen Bubes, was targeted toward younger Republican rainmakers.

Kirk Blalock, a former White House aide, said they squeezed in 300 people — raising a cool $80,000 for the president.

Among those on the host committee were Brian Conklin, Patrick Cave, Mike Chappell, Christine Ciccone, Mark Isakowitz, Missy Jenkins, Marc Lampkin, Dirksen Lehman, Nelson Litterst, Bob Marsh and Wingate.

Sununu’s Score. John H. Sununu has registered to lobby for the Alliance for Energy & Economic Growth, the industry-led lobbying organization pushing the Bush energy policy.

The alliance is run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a number of trade associations that would like to see Congress enact a comprehensive energy bill this year.

Jessica L. Brady contributed to this report.

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