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K Street Files: Crowell’s Catch

For years, Crowell & Moring has kept its public policy team at C&M Capitolink at arm’s length. That changes today, with the firm set to announce it is bringing the seven-member lobbying team in-house.

[IMGCAP(1)]The change-up comes on the heels of another announcement: The firm snagged six lawyer-lobbyists from California-based law firm Pillsbury Winthrop’s Washington, D.C., office.

Peter Robertson, who ran Pillsbury’s public policy group and is a former top Environmental Protection Agency official, will now head Crowell & Moring’s public policy practice along with Capitolink’s Pat Donnelly. “It is truly just about the wonderful opportunity that Crowell & Moring represents for us,” Robertson said of the Pillsbury group’s decision to move.

The departures were certainly a setback for Pillsbury, which tried to bolster its government relations team two years ago by bringing on Robertson and five other lobbyists from Patton Boggs.

Elizabeth Moeller will head the eight-member lobbyist team at Pillsbury. The firm declined to comment on its plans for rebuilding its public policy group.

Robertson will be joined by former White House National Economic Council Chief of Staff Thomas O’Donnell; former White House domestic policy adviser Florence Prioleau; former Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Elliott Laws; former White House staffer Joseph Trapasso; and Kristina Pisanelli, a former aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The hires, many of whom have ties to the Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton administrations, help round out Crowell & Moring’s Democratic ties.

“It’s a fairly broad-based practice that we’ve been doing over here,” said Robertson, whose client work includes the Consumer Electronics Association, Puget Sound Energy and several cities.

Tech Play. There might be more consolidation looming in the world of high-tech trade associations. The leaders of AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association) and the Information Technology Association of America confirmed late last week that they are in merger talks.

ITAA President and CEO Phil Bond and AeA President and CEO Chris Hansen said they hope their groups can come together to create a stronger, unified voice for their industry. In addition, they would seek to increase the new group’s fundraising and political activity.

“Chris and I felt the industry is not nearly as effective on Capitol Hill or with an administration by having so many voices,” Bond said. “It makes it difficult for policymakers to understand where we’re coming from.”

Both association chiefs acknowledged that the merger idea was, at least in part, driven by members of both groups. “Certainly some of the individual members who get stuck paying multiple dues have been vocal about it,” Bond said.

Hansen said both associations have common missions on such policy issues as trade, expansion of the H-1B visa program, health IT and an extension of a research and development tax credit. “Virtually on everything we’re in the same place,” Hansen said.

One issue where the two groups are not unified is patent reform.

ITAA has worked in support of a patent reform measure, while AeA has not. Both leaders said a unified organization’s way of dealing with such potential conflicts would be ironed out during merger discussions.

They also said some staffing changes were possible but that in the end they hope the single group would actually have a larger budget and staff than just the two combined.

“The driving reason for doing this is to create better member value and more clout; it is not just to save costs,” Hansen said.

Team Player. While lobbyists have certainly become pariahs on the campaign trail, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) is counting on one hired gun — Drew Maloney of Ogilvy Government Relations — to help with outreach downtown. Maloney, who started the part-time gig in August, is continuing to lobby for clients.

“I’m focusing on targeted races, trying to generate more resources to do business outreach, conservative coalition outreach,” Maloney said of his responsibilities. “I think it’s sort of filling the necessary role, being a force multiplier. I’ve worked on campaigns, I’ve worked downtown and on the Hill, so I understand how it works.”

Maloney, a former aide to then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), has long been active with the committee. This cycle, he’s been particularly busy as a founding member of Club 218, a program started by Cole to get younger lobbyists to raise money for vulnerable Members.

The group raises $15,000 to $20,000 per event, and Maloney says they’ve seen an uptick following the conventions and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) as his running mate.

K Street Moves. Venn Strategies has lured away an aide to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who was rumored to be a top finalist for his party’s vice presidential slot. Christopher Graham, formerly an aide in Pawlenty’s federal affairs office, is joining Venn as an assistant vice president. Though Venn started out as an all-female, bipartisan firm, in recent years the shop has added men to the roster. Graham was also once an aide to Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.).

• Communications firm Gibraltar Associates has brought on James Lake, who will serve as president of the firm starting today. Lake joins Gibraltar after a seven-year run with Burson-Marsteller, where he was chairman of the U.S. public affairs practice. He has worked for such clients as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

• The National Association of Children’s Hospitals has named James Kaufman, former director of government affairs for Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Institutions, to the position of vice president of public policy. He will oversee the association’s federal advocacy agenda.

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