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ALBANY — A clash between principals in one of Albany’s fastest growing lobby shops has splintered the young firm.

Powers Crane & Co. opened just three years ago when former state Republican Chairman William D. Powers and veteran lobbyist Constance Crane joined forces. Their partnership was an instant success, resulting in compensation and reimbursement boosts of between 44 percent and 60 percent each year of the relationship. Last year, the firm catapulted into the list of Albany’s top 10 lobbying operations, ranked in terms of income.

But disagreements between Ms. Crane, a former deputy environmental commissioner in the Pataki administration and a highly regarded Albany lobbyist, and Mr. Powers, the organizational mastermind of George E. Pataki’s upset victory over Mario M. Cuomo in 1994, fractured the partnership, sources said. As of Saturday, Mr. Powers and Ms. Crane are competitors rather than partners, with offices on separate floors of a building two blocks from the Capitol.

Ms. Crane confirmed yesterday that she has formed a new lobbying firm with former Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco, who had joined Powers Crane as a partner in September. At that time the firm became known as Powers Crane Vacco & Company.

Tomorrow, Mr. Vacco becomes Ms. Crane’s partner in the new partnership, Crane and Vacco. Simultaneously, he will assume an of counsel position with a law firm headed by Ms. Crane’s husband, James B. Crane II of Crane, Greene & Parente in Albany. Mr. Crane will also join his wife and Mr. Vacco as equal partners in the lobbying concern.

Meanwhile, Mr. Powers remains in the lobbying business with his son, Matthew D. Powers, who is of counsel in Mr. Crane’s law firm, and Paul Zuber, former counsel to the Senate majority.

“A partnership is like a marriage,” Ms. Crane said. “When you get to the point where the philosophical differences are so great that it is impacting your business and your life, it is better for everybody to do their own thing.”

Mr. Powers was not immediately available for comment.

The Powers-Crane partnership was formed in March 2001 and quickly built up an impressive client list. The firm cracked the top 10 list for the first time in 2003 and its $1.8 million in receipts placed it seventh in the ranking of top lobbyists in Albany.

Last year, Verizon, the New York Yankees Partnership, Wilmorite Holdings and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. were among the firm’s 25 clients. So was Waste Management, where Mr. Vacco became president after losing a 1998 re-election bid to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Mr. Vacco left his position with Waste Management when he joined Powers Crane.

Differences between Ms. Crane and Mr. Powers became evident earlier this year when Ms. Crane relocated to the Crane, Greene & Parente law offices one floor above Powers Crane Vacco at 90 State Street in Albany and the lobbyists acknowledged a “trial separation.”

Ms. Crane yesterday declined to elaborate on the reasons for the official dissolution of the partnership. She also declined to say which clients are following her and Mr. Vacco and which are remaining with Mr. Powers.

“We are starting with a solid base,” Ms. Crane said. “Some clients have chosen to go with the new firm.”

Lawyer and Lobbyist

A preliminary business plan calls for Mr. Vacco to handle much of the consulting work with Ms. Crane doing the actual legislative lobbying. Mr. Crane is expected to play a more active role in both the lobbying and consulting sectors of the partnership than he did in Powers Crane.

“I see it as a growth industry,” Mr. Crane said, referring to the lobby business. “It’s a natural step for me, and it’s fun.”

Mr. Crane did not rule out the possibility of collaborating with the Powers enterprise on future lobbying issues.

Crane, Greene & Parente is a small but well-connected commercial law firm that branched out over the last decade from a partnership that primarily represented banks to one that now represents clients in other heavily regulated industries, such as energy and telecommunications.

Mr. Vacco, a Buffalo Republican eyed as a potential candidate for Congress this fall, will play an active rather than “rainmaker” role with the law firm, Mr. Crane said. Mr. Crane said the former attorney general’s success as a trial lawyer and appellate attorney made him an obvious attraction for the law firm. Mr. Vacco was once U.S. attorney in Western New York and as attorney general argued and won a 9-0 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding New York’s ban on physician assisted suicide.

The Crane-Powers breakup represents at least the second major shake-up this year in the Albany lobbying scene.

In February, Couch White lost nearly its entire lobby practice to Miami-based Greenberg Traurig. Couch White, an Albany law firm, had become a major lobbying presence. However, in February, several Couch White partners, who accounted for most of the firm’s government relations practice, joined the Albany office of Greenberg Traurig.

The Greenberg firm is attempting to establish a foothold in Albany lobbying, and apparently did so immediately with its Couch White recruits.

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