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WASHINGTON — This year, instead of mailing embossed invitations on Crane’s stationery to a formal catered dinner, Crowell & Moring is spreading word of its informal Inauguration Day party through phone calls and e-mails. Second inaugurations are often quieter, but there are other considerations this year as well. Crowell says that because of security constraints, it will entertain more modestly than in previous years, hosting a reception for about 200 in its offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, which has coveted views of the inauguration parade route. “It will be a discreet crowd. We’re not doing anything extravagant,” says Jose Cunningham, the firm’s marketing director, adding that this is largely an opportunity to network with new and longtime clients. Yet despite concerns about security and other issues — ranging from the war in Iraq to tense partisanship — many firms say they will host parties, even if it means logistical headaches, additional planning and an attempt at understatement amid all of the pomp. At Thelen Reid & Priest’s Inauguration Day party in its offices on Pennsylvania Avenue there will be a buffet luncheon of crab cakes and London broil for about 500 people — and a helping of bipartisanship. “Our position is that this is a nonpartisan celebration of the institution of the presidency,” says the firm’s D.C. managing partner, Andrew Ness. “Democrats seem less enthusiastic about being involved. There is a hangover partisanship that wasn’t around four years ago.” A few Democratic partners plan to leave town around Jan. 20, but that, Ness says, is the exception to the rule. Law and lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, home to close Bush family friend and firm partner James Langdon, lobbyist and former Rep. William Paxon, R-N.Y., and a handful of top campaign fund-raisers for President Bush, will host a pre-inaugural reception. The event at Ristorante Tosca, whose menu includes such specialties as seared foie gras with truffle and chestnut soup, will honor Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who will swear in Vice President Dick Cheney at the inauguration. The firm’s lobbying clients include the Bechtel Group Inc., BP Exploration Inc., Merck & Co. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Some firms are opting out of the festivities altogether, shuttering their offices for the day because of roadblocks and Metro station closures. With offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson will be closed on Inauguration Day. And Howrey Simon Arnold & White is considering closing its office. Even with views of the parade route, neither firm hosted parties in 2001, although both say staff can view the parade from the firms’ offices. For veterans of Inauguration Day planning, the prospect of street closures, identity screenings and a hyper-vigilant Secret Service, which is overseeing inauguration security, is an obvious damper. “It’s more of a military operation,” says Judi Havill, president of Alexandria, Va.-based On-Site Productions, which plans events for corporate clients. “A lot of people don’t want to go through all of this security.” Havill says because of the security restrictions, fewer clients are throwing formal parties. With offices a stone’s throw from the White House in the Willard Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Vinson & Elkins has been talking with the Secret Service about security measures since September. Jay Howell Hebert, the Texas-based firm’s co-administrative partner in Washington, says he expects Secret Service agents to patrol the Willard Building’s terrace, which will be open to party guests. Nonetheless, the firm, which was one of President Bush’s major campaign contributors and the former perch of Attorney General-designate Alberto Gonzales, will host a client dinner for 150 at the Metropolitan Club on the eve of the inauguration and a parade party for 1,000 at its offices Inauguration Day. Vinson & Elkins, which was a primary law firm for the Enron Corp., counts the Lockheed Martin Corp., the Boeing Co., the Northrup Grumman Corp., Shell and the Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. among its clients. “I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s going to be terribly noticeable,” Hebert says of the security. “There is a bit more uncertainty this time, but the people attending will be cooperative.” Also housed in the Willard Building, D.C.’s Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr has scheduled a parade party for 1,000. The firm, which a spokeswoman says plans to hang a banner bearing its name on a balcony overlooking the parade route, will feature a Tex-Mex-themed room in honor of the president, as well as rooms decorated in different styles to represent its various offices throughout the world. Greenberg Traurig’s offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, just 300 yards from the White House, will be subject to the “tightest security imaginable,” says Greenberg Traurig’s mid-Atlantic managing partner, Joe Reeder, who declined to elaborate on what measures the Secret Service will use. The firm, whose clients include the tort reform advocacy group U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the conservative think tank Center for Popular Culture, and media and telecommunications companies like Viacom and Verizon, will host a reception for about 800 people in its Connecticut Avenue offices. In 2001, Greenberg hosted about 1,500 people for the inauguration, which fell on a Saturday that year. Reeder says that because the inauguration is on a weekday, his firm’s party will have fewer guests. THE PRICE OF PARTYING They might not be as lavish, but this year’s lower-key celebrations still won’t come cheaply. Many firms say that they will spend up to $100,000, mostly on brief evening cocktail receptions or catered parties during the day. The money will buy Sutherland Asbill & Brennan an all-day parade party featuring the “four corners of America,” with regional food from the Northwest, Southwest, New England and the Deep South. The grand door prize is an all-expenses-paid trip to one of the regions. The firm, whose clients include Calpine Energy Services and the Independent Petroleum Association of America, says the party is essentially about feting clients, and it goes out of its way not to make a partisan statement. “We’re pretty ecumenical,” says W. Mark Smith, managing partner of the firm’s D.C. office. “People from all political persuasions will be there.” And instead of sponsoring big parties of their own, some firms, like Piper Rudnick, say that they will focus on guiding clients through the swirl of events around the inauguration and contribute to the president’s Inauguration Committee. Unlike campaign donations, gifts to the committee don’t have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission. Piper won’t say how much it gave to the committee, which is spending more than $40 million on events. The contributions can make accessible some of the most sought-after tickets for official inauguration events, says Steven Phillips, a Piper Rudnick partner who is coordinating the firm’s Inauguration Day activities, which include a relatively intimate parade viewing party for about 150 people. “You’re not just giving money for free — you’re getting some recognition in return,” Phillips says. “Our primary focus has been to try to help take care of our clients’ interests,” Phillips says. Phillips says he has looked to “friends and foes” to get tickets to official functions for clients. Bridging the partisan divide will be the theme of Powell Goldstein’s Jan. 20 cocktail reception for about 500 guests in the firm’s offices. Everything from party favors to bunting will be purple, representing a combination of the much-denoted “red” Republican and “blue” Democratic states. “The divisiveness needs to be addressed,” says Martin Gold, the firm’s director of marketing. In the past, Powell took advantage of its office’s Pennsylvania Avenue views and hosted an all-day parade party. But because of its recent move to new offices near the new Washington Convention Center, which itself is the site of all but one of the nine inaugural balls, the firm is opting for a smaller reception. For some firms, what form the festivities would take on Inauguration Day prompted particular discussion. “The war in Iraq is pretty divisive in terms of thinking about how to celebrate,” says Phillip Mann, a tax partner and former chairman of Miller & Chevalier who is heading up the firm’s Inauguration Day events. “But it’s still the presidential inauguration.” The firm, known for its strong tax practice and among whose clients are Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Exxon Mobil Corp., the Ford Motor Co. and the General Electric Co., will host a string of events, including a luncheon at the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel and a dinner at the Metropolitan Club on Jan. 19. On Inauguration Day, the firm is throwing a reception for about 500 people in its offices, which have views of the parade route. In 2001, many inauguration parties were outsized bashes, revels for the victors in a fiercely fought and protracted election battle. That year, Patton Boggs feted the incoming administration in the sumptuous St. Regis Hotel in an event that drew ambassadors, Congress members and business leaders. However, to mark Bush’s second swearing-in ceremony next week, the law and lobbying firm, whose clients include Bush-Cheney 2004 and the Republican National Committee, will host a much-lower-key affair. A few hundred guests are invited for an afternoon cocktail reception at the firm’s M Street offices in Northwest Washington on the Friday following the inauguration. Texas-based Baker Botts, whose senior partner James Baker III led Bush’s legal team in the election fight in Florida, celebrated in 2001 with a more than 2,000-guest black-tie reception that paid tribute to former President George H.W. Bush. In 1989, the honoree was George W. Bush, then the managing general partner of the Texas Rangers. This year, the firm, known for its deep Republican roots, will again host a party in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, but the two-hour reception on the evening of the 19th won’t be a “destination event,” says James Baker IV, who manages the firm’s Washington office. With about 1,000 guests, it’s hard to describe the party as low-key, says Baker, but it will be “heavily weighted” toward clients and members of the Bush administration and Congress, rather than a themed commemoration, as the firm has put on in the past. “We’re not aiming to try to re-create what we did four years ago,” Baker says. “That was kind of a unique experience for the country and for our law firm.” Lily Henning is a reporter with Legal Times, a Recorder affiliate based in Washington, D.C.

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