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Lobbyists, like lawyers, seem to thrive in bleak economic times. The same goes for lawyers who are lobbyists. “Just because the economy is bad doesn’t mean you don’t have to do business with the Legislature,” says Richard Weinroth, a partner with Sterns & Weinroth in Trenton. “Whatever the economic situation is, the issues are always there.” Perhaps that’s why, in an era of business retrenchment and government austerity, Trenton lobbyists took in a record-high $32.1 million in 2002 — $3.3 million, or 11.8 percent, more than their 2001 revenues — according to figures released Thursday by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. (See related chart) The top 10 law-firm lobbyists also saw their revenues rise last year. They reaped $5.6 million, a 5.7 percent hike from 2001, their highest take in the 12 years the Law Journalhas tracked lawyer-lobbyist revenues. Issues Management, an arm of Roseland’s Lowenstein Sandler, retained its position as the biggest of the law firm lobbyists, earning $1.6 million in 2002, about $100,000 more than the year before. Following in lockstep was the Trenton office of Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti, which saw lobbying revenues of $1.5 million, up about a half a million. In third place was Sterns & Weinroth, which earned $694,000 from lobbying, up slightly from 2001 revenues of $687,000. The firm saw a slight bump in revenues despite the loss of partner and insurance maven Elmer Matthews, now of counsel at Newark’s Tompkins, McGuire, Wachenfeld & Barry. Despite their continued success, the lawyer-lobbyists still trail far behind the industry leaders: newly formed Hodes Shaw Bodman Gluck and Princeton Public Affairs Group Hodes Shaw earned $6.4 million in revenues last year, taking over the top spot from Princeton Public Affairs, which earned $6.1 million. But Issues Management is No. 4 among all of Trenton’s lobbying firms, earning just $70,000 less in revenues than East Rutherford’s MWW Group, which holds the No. 3 spot. Issues Management was part of Florham Park’s Shanley & Fisher until 2000, when the firm merged with Philadelphia’s Drinker Biddle & Reath and Lowenstein Sandler bought the lobbying subsidiary. “Our relationship with Lowenstein Sandler is great, and success breeds success,” says managing partner Cindy Gordon. Gordon says Issues Management’s success is pegged to its ability to offer not only government relations but also legal services. “Clients want a full package,” she says. Issues Management’s biggest clients last year were commercial real estate developers — Cranbury’s Matrix Develop Group Inc., Hoboken’s BDLJ Associates LLC and Secaucus’ Hartz Mountain Industries Inc. Gordon says the companies became more involved in lobbying because of Gov. James McGreevey’s stated interest in promoting commercial development on brownfields — slightly contaminated sites in inner cities. “We’ve gotten more referrals because of certain trends within the McGreevey administration,” she says. Riker, Danzig’s chief lobbyist, John Sheridan Jr., transportation commissioner under Gov. Thomas Kean, says he, too, is pleased with the firm’s success last year. “We had a number of good clients last year,” says Sheridan. Ironically, it was Riker, Danzig’s biggest lobbying client — Newark Sports & Entertainment — that had the least success. The company, which wants to build an arena in downtown Newark for the Devils and Nets, had hoped for some help in the form of public funding. Those hopes were dashed, however, when legislators could not agree on a package. The company paid Riker, Danzig more than $188,000 last year. Sterns & Weinroth was helped financially by the arcana of government regulations and the marketplace. Its biggest client was the New York Mercantile Exchange, which paid the firm $178,000 in fees. Weinroth says the exchange is particularly concerned about the desire of Northeastern states to stop putting MTBE — a gasoline additive designed to reduce pollution — in gasoline supplies. New York and Connecticut tentatively plan to eliminate MTBE from gasoline supplies by the end of the year, while New Jersey has no such plan in place. Weinroth says he has been working to establish a regional plan for eliminating MTBE; otherwise, he says, the Mercantile Exchange will have difficulty selling gasoline on the open market in the Northeast. “If New Jersey doesn’t phase out MTBE at the same time, you’re going to have boutique gasoline,” he says. GIBBONS ENTERS THE FIELD The top 10 lobbying law firms of included two newcomers in 2002: Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione’s lobbying group in Roseland was sixth on the list, and William Megna, who split last year from Trenton’s Caldwell Megna, was in ninth place. Megna counts among his lobbyists former Mercer County Republican Assemblyman Paul Kramer. Moving up from sixth to fourth place was Westfield’s Alman Group, headed by Edward McGlynn, chief of staff under Kean. The firm’s biggest client remains the city of Newark, which paid $48,500 last year, largely for representation on inner city issues. In total, the firm saw $375,500 in revenues, up from $350,000 in 2001. Staying in fifth place was Cranford’s Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci, this despite the loss of partner Christopher Christie, now U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey. The firm’s biggest client remains the online college University of Phoenix, which paid $72,000 in fees last year. There was a slight drop in lobbying revenues for Dughi, Hewit, however, to $305,000 in 2002 from $375,400 in 2001. Gibbons, Del Deo earned $268,900 from its clients. Its biggest clients were Oxford Health Plans and the Visiting Nurse Association of Central New Jersey, which paid the firm $76,566 and $48,000, respectively. As always, health care remains a key issue in New Jersey. In seventh place, dropping down a spot, was Hackettstown’s Courter, Kobert, Laufer & Cohen, headed by former Republican U.S. Rep. James Courter. The firm earned $256,364 last year — compared with $258,374 the year before — despite the loss of one of its biggest clients, Enron Corp. The biggest drop in the top 10 list came from Philadelphia’s Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley, which has offices in Trenton and Cherry Hill. The firm’s top lobbyist is David Norcross, a one-time candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee. Blank Rome, dropping from No. 4 to No. 8, saw its lobbying revenues drop from $411,519 in 2001 to $249,796 last year. Following ninth-place Megna, who saw earnings of $148,886, was Princeton’s Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, with receipts of $144,987. Marx Lane nosed out Cherry Hill’s Flaster/Greenberg by a mere $2,705.20. Dropping out of the top 10 altogether was Trenton’s Graham, Curtin & Sheridan, which saw lobbying revenues drop from $143,893 to $111,865 and the disbanded Caldwell Megna. Hodes Shaw was created when Hazel Gluck, a transportation and insurance commissioner under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and Judith Shaw, Whitman’s chief of staff, disbanded their lobbying firm, GluckShaw, to join Harold Hodes and Roger Bodman. Hodes was chief of staff to Gov. Brendan Byrne, while Bodman was a transportation commissioner under Kean and remains a key Republican strategist. Princeton Public Affairs is headed by Bradley Brewster, the former executive director of the Assembly Republican Office, and by Dale Florio, the Somerset County Republican Party chairman. Also on the roster is former Senate President John Russo, a Democrat.

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