GOP Lobbyists Leave the Washington Group

Posted November 13, 2008 at 12:38pm

The Washington Group let go three senior Republican lobbyists on Monday as the firm readies itself for a merger with fellow Omnicom Group-owned lobby shop Clark & Weinstock.

The official announcement of the merger is expected soon, according to a source close to the negotiations.

Senior vice presidents Brett Shogren, Carlos Bonilla and Eugene Patrone are all casualties of the merger.

The decision to let go of Shogren, a former aide to then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), and Patrone, former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.), was largely due to overlap with Clark & Weinstock’s GOP influence-peddling team, according to the source.

Bonilla, a former Bush administration official, was conflicted out of the merger. He represents for-profit nursing homes while Clark & Weinstock represents nonprofits such as Health Net.

Bonilla declined to comment. Shogren and Patrone did not return calls.

John O’Hanlon, co-founder and chairman of the Washington Group, declined to comment.

Clark & Weinstock did not immediately return calls.

The merger is a move by Omnicom Group to consolidate its lobbying brands. Ketchum Inc., which is owned by Omnicom, bought the Washington Group in 2001.

Rumors of the group merging with another Omnicom-owned lobby shop have been circulating K Street since Molinari announced her departure in September. Molinari exited for the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani after seven years with the firm, most recently as chairwoman of the lobby shop.

Her departure is one of a handful of senior lobbyists who have recently left the Washington Group.

Co-founder John Raffaelli departed in 2007 to found Capitol Counsel and was later joined by former Washington Group Democratic lobbyist Richard Sullivan in 2007 and defense lobbyist Anthony Marken earlier this year.

Other lobbyists who have exited include Democrat Marissa Mitrovich this fall, Rita Lewis, a longtime member of the firm and its former vice chairwoman, to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in January, and health care specialists William Burke and Kathy Kulkarni, who formed Rubicon Advisors in 2007.

The Washington Group reported $4.8 million in lobbying income in 2007 and $2.9 million as of the end of September, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports. Despite the exits, it maintains a number of senior lobbyists, including Republican Missy Edwards, Tonya Speed, who has strong ties to the Congressional Black Caucus, agriculture lobbyist Fowler West and defense specialist Jim Noone.

Clark & Weinstock is headed by former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber (R). The firm reported $7.14 million in lobbying income in 2007 and almost $4.5 million as of the end of September, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports. The firm boasts several senior lobbyists, including former Clinton administration official Sandi Stuart, agricultural specialist Christopher D’Arcy, and former House Appropriations Staff Director Jim Dyer.