Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht Splits Into Two Firms

Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:16pm

The longtime lobbying and campaign law firm Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon has split up.

Name partners Tom Ryan and Jeff MacKinnon have taken two colleagues from the original firm to form Ryan MacKinnon Vasapoli & Berzok, while Lyn Utrecht and Bill Phillips have snagged seven colleagues to join their venture Utrecht & Phillips.

The Ryan MacKinnon firm will focus on legislative and lobbying work, and Utrecht & Phillips will specialize in campaign finance law as well as lobbying.

“It’s an amicable parting of the ways,” said Phillips, who will be one of just two Republicans in his new firm.

Utrecht added, “It’s kind of a business decision. Our lease was up at the end of February, and people wanted to move to different places. I think it’s going to work out for the best for everybody.”

This isn’t the first time that the Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon firm has morphed into a different iteration.

The firm traces its roots back to 1993, when it was known as Oldaker, Ryan & Leonard. Election lawyer and lobbyist Bill Oldaker is now with Oldaker, Belair & Wittie. Former Ways and Means Committee tax counsel Rob Leonard is now a partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon was perhaps best known for two particular niches: its campaign finance and ethics legal work for top-tier Democratic candidates and its lobbying practice borne out of close ties to members of the House and Senate Commerce committees.

Ryan, who was chief counsel for the House Energy and Commerce panel in the mid-1980s, is considered close with recently ousted Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).

MacKinnon is a former aide to Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who was chairman of the committee when the GOP controlled Congress.

Ryan and MacKinnon are joined by Matthew Berzok, a former aide to Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), a member of the Energy and Commerce panel, and Joe Vasapoli, who worked at the Energy Department during the early 1990s under President George H.W. Bush.

The Ryan MacKinnon shop has added Nick Kolovos, a one-time aide to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). Kolovos was most recently vice president for government relations at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

“We have a long history in legislative practice, and we’re going to go about our business as we always have, providing sound advice and strong advocacy on behalf of our clients,” Ryan said.

Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon had a long roster of lobbying clients — the majority of which had business before the commerce committees — registered last year with the House and Senate. Those clients included the Air Transport Association, Altria Group Inc., Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Comcast Corp., CTIA-the Wireless Association, Edison Electric Institute, Entergy Corp., Southern Co., Genentech Inc. and Merck & Co.

On the campaign law side, Utrecht recently represented Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign and was counsel to the Clinton-Gore campaigns and to Al Gore’s White House effort in 2000.

Phillips previously worked for then-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who recently lost a re-election bid after being convicted of felony ethics violations.

Phillips said his new firm is planning to hire two to three people, most likely Democrats.