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Christie Founds Lobbying Practice at Ruder Finn

Ronald Christie, a one-time top domestic policy adviser to Vice President Cheney, has left the lobbying firm Patton Boggs to start a global government affairs practice at the public relations firm Ruder Finn.

“We really never had a lobbying practice in Washington, D.C.,” said Richard Funess, the New York-based president of Ruder Finn. “We’ve created it with Ron. We see it as the beginning of something pretty big in Washington.”

Christie, 35, left the Bush administration last year after heading the White House’s USA Freedom Corps, which promotes volunteerism. The California native joined Patton Boggs as counsel and has lobbied for the city of Los Angeles and RealNetworks, among others. Christie said those clients will remain with Patton Boggs. At Ruder Finn, his new title will be executive vice president for global government affairs.

“It’s daunting, but I’m so excited and thrilled,” he said about his new gig. “The opportunity to start a practice group and lead it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

It was on a pitch late last year for client Celgene Corp. that Christie first met the members of Ruder Finn.

“We were certainly sorry to see Ron go,” said Stuart Pape, managing partner of Patton Boggs. “Sometimes opportunities present themselves that seem too good to pass up.” Pape said his firm and Ruder Finn may work on clients together.

Ruder Finn dabbled in lobbying back in 1998 and 1999 when it employed Robb Watters, a former Republican Capitol Hill aide who now runs his own firm, the Madison Group, and a couple of other registered lobbyists. The firm’s clients back then included the Catskill Mountain Foundation, and, coincidentally, Patton Boggs.

Christie and Funess said Ruder Finn has made a commitment to expand the government relations practice in clients and personnel. Ruder Finn’s D.C. office also has a new managing director in Barbara Shipley, formerly with Fleishman-Hillard.

“We want to make hires as quickly as possible to assemble a bipartisan team that can advance the goals of our clients,” said Christie, who starts his new job April 4. Ruder Finn is one of the few large independent PR firms.

Christie first came to Washington for an internship in 1990 and later graduated with a law degree from George Washington University. Before his stint in the White House, he worked on the 2000 Senatorial campaign of George Allen (R-Va.) and served as a senior adviser to then-Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio). He also lobbied at the firm now known as the Downey McGrath Group.

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