Last fall, Kirk Fordham thought he was facing the end of what had been a promising career in politics.
As a former longtime top aide to then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), he was swept into investigations by both the ethics committee and the FBI into the Florida lawmaker’s sexually explicit communications with former male House pages. Under intense media scrutiny at the height of the furor, Fordham resigned from his post as then-chief of staff to Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.). He thought his career was in dire straits.
“For a while I thought I was going to have to move to Mykonos and work at some beach bar,” Fordham said in an interview last week. “I was sort of in a funk last fall thinking of what I was going to do.”
But things are turning around for Fordham, aided by the ethics committee’s investigative report, released in early December, that concluded that he had told the truth about his ties to Foley and his efforts to notify leadership about his concerns. The committee did not place any fault on Fordham, and the panel backed up his claims that he did not know about the explicit electronic communications in question.
In January, Fordham started Rock Creek Strategies, his own consulting company for public affairs and lobbying. He has not registered as a lobbyist yet, but he will be soon, he said. It’s still a one-man operation, but he has landed four clients.
Fordham will be lobbying for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers — a former employer — and he has carved out some office space for his operation at the CIAB on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest. He also is working with Gill Action, an issue advocacy organization, in conjunction with the Log Cabin Republicans and other groups to advance hate-crimes-prevention legislation in Congress. Fordham, who is gay, said there is likely to be renewed momentum behind the legislation in a Democratic majority.
He also has taken on two public affairs clients but declined to name them, citing confidentiality concerns. He only said that they are pharmaceutical and energy clients.
Fordham has not, so far, taken on any crisis communications issues but said the Foley experience has taught him some lessons. “It’s certainly an area I’ve developed some skills in, but it’s not my primary focus,” he said.
Fordham said his decade-plus experience on the Hill and in elections is a solid background for his business because “it’s basically running a political campaign on legislative initiatives,” with the added bonus of being your own boss. “You have a lot more freedom and flexibility when you run your own shop,” he said.
Fordham spends 3-5 days each week on the Hill making the rounds and networking, where he said there has been “no push-back whatsoever” from Congressional offices. In fact, Fordham said he was surprised at how many people on and off the Hill reached out to him to offer advice and support during the Foley episode. Friends and associates even helped set up a legal trust to help him pay down his considerable legal bills from the investigations. “In the end people will continue to trust you as long as you tell the truth,” he said.
Fordham worked for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) from 1989 to 1994 before joining Foley’s staff for 10 years. He has done stints at the CIAB, as finance director for Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) in 2004, and at the DCI Group in 2005 before he joined Reynolds’ office later that year until the Foley scandal broke in 2006.
Correction: April 24, 2007
The article incorrectly stated that Kirk Fordham is lobbying for the Gill Foundation to advance hate-crimes-prevention legislation. Fordham is working with Gill Action, an issue advocacy organization, in conjunction with the Log Cabin Republicans and other groups to move the bill.