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Most Republican National Convention attendees never heard of Susan Hirschmann. Edwin Buckham wasn’t even sure he was going to show up at the convention. And you definitely did not see Tony Rudy address an audience of delegates at Madison Square Garden � the idea seems almost absurd. Yet the three GOP lobbyists are at the top of their game. And they have one important experience that helped them get there: All served as top aides to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Buckham and Hirschmann both served as DeLay’s chief of staff, and Rudy was his deputy chief of staff. Like no other member, DeLay has spent his years in leadership taking an active role in shaping the character of K Street. His role as a key ally of the K Street Project � a GOP effort to help promote Republicans into top lobbying slots � is already the stuff of lobbying legend. As his years in leadership have piled up, DeLay has sent a powerful array of ex-staffers into the lobbying world. They are armed not only with their connections to him but also with the experience of working for one of the most effective political operations on the Hill. And that has brought a flood of clients and millions of dollars in lobbying fees to their firms. In addition to attracting clients, though, Buckham, Rudy, and Hirschmann are also in demand by members of Congress to help them informally curry favor with the trio’s former boss, according to lobbying colleagues. If members, for example, want to chair a committee or subcommittee, they must get support from leadership. To influence DeLay, they sometimes turn to lobbyists who are close to him, people whose judgment and counsel he trusts: “Ed Buckham, Tony Rudy, and Susan Hirschmann,” says a lobbyist who spoke on condition of anonymity. If a member wins the chairmanship, he or she may feel a debt of gratitude to the person who put in a good word with DeLay. This gives the trio “incredible, incredible clout,” says the lobbyist. It also can be a very effective way to build a lobbying business. Buckham and Rudy lead the all-Republican Alexander Strategy Group. Rudy joined the firm in the summer of 2002 from Greenberg Traurig, and shortly after he came aboard, several clients switched firms as well: the National Automobile Dealers Association, Fannie Mae, Eli Lilly and Co., and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. In the process, Alexander Strategy’s lobbying revenue jumped from $2 million in 2002 to $6 million in 2003, lobbying disclosure records show. This year alone, the firm has signed on a dozen new clients, including the BellSouth Corp., MGM Mirage, and Time Warner. Rudy credits DeLay with instilling a sense of how to meet the needs of Congress: “[He] has an innate sense of how the institution works. He is like a conductor of an orchestra, somebody who can make beautiful music.” If you worked on his staff, Rudy says, “you saw how he understood the importance of listening to members.” Jeffrey Taylor, a Republican lobbyist at Barnes & Thornburg, worked with Rudy on Capitol Hill. Taylor served as chief of staff for then-Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.) when Rudy was with DeLay. “If there was a problem or you needed advice,” says Taylor, “you knew you could pull Tony aside and get his best judgment. “He had an enormous amount of give-and-take with the members of Congress. What members liked about Tony Rudy was he never sugarcoated anything. You always knew you were getting the straight story from him,” Taylor says. From the moment she left the Hill in 2002, Hirschmann was also a hot commodity. She had been DeLay’s chief of staff since 1997 and not only is she still close to her former boss, but also she hired many of his current closest advisers. Hirschmann landed at Williams & Jensen and has been a client magnet ever since. In 2004 alone, she has signed on to lobby for 13 clients, a very respectable number for any lobbyist. Her clients include the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Brinks Co., the FedEx Corp., Motorola, the National Indian Gaming Association, and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. She also runs Integrated Legislative Strategies, a grass-roots lobbying firm affiliated with Williams & Jensen. Hirschmann did not return calls seeking comment. POLITICAL CHOPS Obviously, it’s not a new development for former staffers to have good contacts on the Hill. But DeLay’s team seems to have spawned more lobbyists than other members of the GOP leadership. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have surprisingly few coattails on K Street. (A notable exception is Gregg Hartley, Blunt’s former chief of staff, who joined Cassidy & Associates last year as its chief operating officer.) DeLay, of course, has been the most active member of the House in trying to recalibrate the partisan makeup of K Street. Since he began his rise through Republican leadership ranks during the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the lobbying world has become much more politically balanced, in large part due to the Republicans’ control of Congress and the White House. DeLay has left his imprint on that transformation by championing like-minded Republicans on K Street. Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, which spearheads the K Street Project, says that DeLay “understands the importance of K Street being Republican.” “Republicans and Democrats who work on K Street have a very different way of looking at the world,” Norquist says. A GOP lobbyist, for example, is more likely to pursue lower taxes and free-trade policies as solutions to a corporate problem, he says. Partisan maneuvering, however, is not the only reason former DeLay staffers have a leg up. Many, including Buckham, Hirschmann, and Rudy, were on staff when DeLay was majority whip. Says Jack Howard, president of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates: “Working in a whip operation instills a certain discipline that you don’t get in other leadership offices.” Whip operations, Howard says, “attract good people, but are also good training.” As Norquist puts it, “If you’ve been part of whipping the House, you have a pretty good idea of how things are going to go, who could stop things, how you could make things happen.” William Jarrell served as DeLay’s administrative assistant, campaign manager, and deputy chief of staff until 1997, when he joined Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds as a government affairs counselor. Jarrell, now a partner with Arlington, Va.-based Washington Strategies, says he learned more from DeLay than simply an understanding of the process. “I think the number one characteristic that made you an integral part of the DeLay team was you had to care about other people � specifically, congressmen,” says Jarrell, whose clients include defense company Morgan Optics of San Diego, Delaware County Community College, and the Alliance for Consumer Education. Jarrell’s client roster focuses his attention mostly on appropriations in the Northeast and Midwest and on such committees as Armed Services � not areas where DeLay holds particular sway. But, Jarrell says, “it probably never hurts to have worked for Tom DeLay. . . . I learned an awful lot from the whip organization and those contacts.” DeLay, he adds, teaches his aides to look for opportunities to help congressional colleagues. “I can remember conversations where Tom DeLay would say, �When I can help someone, I want to be the first to know,’ ” Jarrell recalls. Problems could be on the professional, political, or personal level � no matter. DeLay would do whatever he could to help. “The fact that we were in a position of helping to facilitate good will doesn’t hurt when I bring clients to meet with members of Congress, who at the time were freshmen and now are subcommittee chairs.” The best part, though, Jarrell says, is that DeLay is not simply helping people line up their votes. Instead, he says, DeLay offers help because he genuinely “cares about those people.” Kevin Ring, a partner at Greenberg Traurig, has worked with several former DeLay aides over the years, including Rudy and Jarrell. “I think Tom DeLay’s staff historically has had the best combination of policy smarts and political savvy,” says Ring. DeLay, of course, has made political enemies � no one with the nickname “The Hammer” is ever going to be universally loved. And in recent months, he’s been linked to two ongoing investigations: one by the Senate into $45 million in payments made by Indian tribes to lobbyist Jack Abramoff and DeLay’s former spokesman Michael Scanlon; the other by Texas authorities into fund raising that aided Republican redistricting efforts in the state. DeLay, according to The Washington Post, has hired two criminal defense lawyers to represent him in the Texas investigation. DeLay’s leadership office did not return three phone calls seeking comment for this article. But the troubles haven’t spilled over to his ex-staffers. They appear to be set for a long haul on K Street � particularly while the GOP hangs onto the House. Wexler & Walker’s Howard recently served as the deputy assistant for legislative affairs to President George W. Bush and has worked on the Hill for Hastert, then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). He has observed and worked with the DeLay operation for years. “The thing that’s always impressed me about Tom and the people he is surrounded by,” Howard says, “is they’re focused on the bottom line. They get things done. It’s astounding.” Kate Ackley is news editor for Influence (www.influence.biz), Legal Times ‘ sister publication covering the business of lobbying, where this article first appeared. Influence reporter Andy Metzger contributed to this article.

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