Dick Lugar’s K Street Ties Couldn’t Salvage His Primary Fight

Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:41pm

Sen. Dick Lugar’s K Street ties run deep and include a network of loyal former aides and family members. But the help of his downtown supporters wasn’t enough to push the Indiana Republican to victory Tuesday.

Several lobbyists who remain part of Lugar’s “kitchen cabinet” helped their patron with fundraising. One longtime aide, Chip Andreae, who runs a consulting firm in D.C., helped start a super PAC called Indiana Values.

“I can’t think of one person who has worked for Lugar who hasn’t thought it was one of the great experiences of their life,” said David Gogol, founder of FaegreBD Consulting’s federal lobbying practice and an aide to the Senator for eight years. “It was spectacularly fun, although lots of work, to be with a Senator who had such ambition for the country.”

Two other former Lugar aides, Bob Kabel and Nick Weber, also work at FaegreBD Consulting.

Other Lugar alums downtown include Amy Oberhelman, in-house lobbyist with Target Corp.; Justin Ailes, vice president for government and regulatory affairs with the American Land Title Association; Richard Hohlt of the Hohlt Group; David Lyons, vice president of government relations for Louis Dreyfus Commodities; and Charles Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. Hohlt worked for Lugar when he was mayor of Indianapolis and moved with him to D.C. after he became a Senator in 1977.

The former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations and Agriculture committees has, not surprisingly, mentored people who went on to lobby in those areas.

“I’m sure if I’d not worked for Sen. Lugar, I wouldn’t be doing what I did after or doing what I [do] today,” said Lyons, who has been fundraising for his long-ago boss. “It was a very important thing in my life and my career.”

Conner, whose organization also helped Lugar raise money, added that the Senator’s footprint downtown is “a big one.”

Lugar, he said, hired him for a Hill job in 1980 when he was a loan officer in an agriculture bank in Indiana. He later went on to serve as chief of staff of the Senate Agriculture panel during Lugar’s chairmanship.

Conner said he and the other alumni have kept in touch over the decades through regular events such as Chicken Fest, a reunion of sorts at Andreae’s family chicken farm on the Chesapeake Bay. Andreae did not return calls seeking comment. “It got to be such a large group that it fell by the wayside,” Conner said of Chicken Fest. “But for many years that was our gathering point.”

Though many of Lugar’s longtime supporters don’t expect him to enter the lobbying business himself, the Senator wouldn’t be the only member of his family to land on K Street. His son, Dave Lugar, runs a lobbying firm. Dave Lugar’s wife, Katherine Lugar, is the top lobbyist for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Another daughter-in-law, Kelly Lugar, is a lobbyist at SNR Denton.

K Street, though, is certainly not unanimous in its support for Lugar. Indeed, the banking industry is not so quietly cheering his loss and backed Richard Mourdock, Lugar’s primary opponent. That’s because Lugar took the side of retailers against banks in the fight over debit card transaction fee legislation last year.

“Why not support Lugar? Debit cards, plain and simple,” one banking lobbyist explained. “It wasn’t just his votes but his active role on the issue.”

But Lugar’s K Street supporters said that one issue doesn’t define him or tarnish his reputation as a foreign policy expert and elder statesman.

Conner added that Lugar, who has brought numerous staffers to Washington, has not only shaped careers but also helped spark romances. Conner, for one, met his wife when the two worked for the Senator. “He brought people together,” he said.