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On a Mission: Lobbying Power to the People

Call it the K Street purge.

Whether it’s teaching low-income children or crusading against the influence industry’s evils, Washington is filled with former K Streeters on a mission to make up for time spent doing the bidding of major corporations.

For Christopher C. Hull, who spent more than a decade orchestrating grass-roots issue campaigns for Hill & Knowlton’s corporate clients, that atonement is a new public interest advocacy venture called BlastRoots Inc. (Note: He was never, ever a registered lobbyist.)

“I saw special interests playing chess against special interests,” Hull said. “It was just wrong. I felt that it was important to give the public access to at least some of the information that I had as someone who helped wire the system for the special interest. … I helped do this. I helped create the system.”

BlastRoots, which launched in September, is the latest in a new breed of advocacy firms — from the well-known petition website to the under-the-radar RAP Index — that have tried to capitalize on social media to rewrite the rules of lobbying.

The platform offers two tiers of service. Anyone can start a petition for no charge and, in one click, recruit followers via email, Facebook and Twitter. For a fee, customers can “go pro” with more exclusive services.

Hull would not elaborate on how the company would supplement those rates but said the strategy would hinge on data about users’ political interests.

“We won’t resell that information,” he said. “But there’s no question that stuff is valuable.”

On the Hunt for Lobbyists

Attention, soon-to-be-former members and staff: There’s a new K Street headhunter in town.

Joanna Martin from the White House Office of Presidential Personnel has joined the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International to serve as a point person for filling the slots of top K Street executives. Her clients will include trade associations and corporations who are looking to hire lobbyists.

At the White House, Martin recruited and recommended candidates for senior positions in the Obama administration. Her former boss, President Barack Obama, imposed tough restrictions on White House aides decamping for K Street, but she won’t be lobbying.

Martin likely will start her job with a flurry of résumés in her inbox, especially because the elections sent numerous members packing — and the job market they’ll encounter promises to be competitive.

“We’re thrilled to have Joanna join our growing team,” Nels Olson, Korn/Ferry’s vice chairman and co-leader of board and CEO services, said in a statement. “She’s a consummate professional and a highly skilled executive search specialist who is already a star in our business.”

Martin — who will focus on energy, financial services, health care, insurance and technology — replaces Blair Bennett, a former client partner at Korn/Ferry, who joined Wal-Mart Stores Inc. earlier this year as director of executive recruiting.

Before joining the White House, Martin served as a regional finance director on Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Oracle’s New Alliance

The Business Software Alliance, a trade association for software-makers, has wooed a new “global advocacy member” in the Oracle Corp.

“We are pleased to join BSA and look forward to collaborating with fellow member companies,” Jason Mahler, Oracle’s vice president of government affairs, said in a press statement touting the move.

BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman added, “The addition of Oracle’s expertise and thought leadership to our global advocacy programs and initiatives will help us accomplish even more on priority issues.”

Oracle is in the hardware and software business. The BSA focuses on intellectual property and other high-tech matters.

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An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the fee for BlastRoots’ “pro” services. Anyone can start a petition for no charge. For a fee, customers can “go pro” with more exclusive services.

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