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Even as the scandal around Jack Abramoff steadily grew over the past two years, veterans of his lobbying operations continued to enjoy success. While their old captain became a pariah, former members of the so-called Team Abramoff continued to find shops eager to hire them as big-dollar lobbyists and, more important, clients willing to sign them to fat retainers. But that changed when Abramoff reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice on January 3, in which he pled guilty to three counts of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion. Within days, two Team Abramoff alumni lost their jobs: Tony Rudy of Alexander Strategy Group, a small but well-connected D.C. — based lobby shop, and Neil Volz of Barnes & Thornburg, the Indianapolis-based law firm. Alexander Strategy announced that it would shut its doors at the end of January, while Volz left Barnes & Thornburg on January 6. Both Rudy and Volz are alumni of the high-profile lobbying group that Abramoff assembled at the D.C. office of Greenberg Traurig. According to numerous press reports, Rudy and Volz are widely believed to be the Staffers A and B, respectively, who are cited in Abramoff’s plea agreement. Neither Rudy nor anyone else at Alexander Strategy returned calls seeking comment for this article. Volz referred all questions to his attorney, Timothy Broas of Winston and Strawn, who did not respond to requests for comment. Rudy’s lobbying success was due, in part, to his tenure as chief of staff to Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the powerful former House majority leader. After leaving Capitol Hill, Rudy first joined Abramoff at Greenberg, and then went on his own to Alexander Strategy in 2002 ["The Hammer's Nails," November 2004]. Even as word of Abramoff’s troubles came to light, Alexander Strategy’s revenue grew by more than 50 percent in 2004. And although multiple scandals began to overtake DeLay last year, Rudy’s firm continued to add clients in early 2005. Alexander Strategy’s client growth started to slow late last year, however, after DeLay stepped down as majority leader. Still, the shop’s closure caught many K Streeters by surprise. Volz also turned to lobbying after serving as chief of staff for another powerful member of the House, Bob Ney (R-Ohio). Volz left Capitol Hill to join Abramoff at Greenberg, and then in January 2005 jumped to Barnes & Thornburg in a move that, at the time, didn’t raise many eyebrows. That’s because Volz (who came to Barnes & Thornburg along with fellow Abramoff alums Kevin Ring and Edward Ayoob) brought with him a big book of business. According to lobby disclosure filings, Barnes & Thornburg’s lobby revenues shot up from $430,000 in the last half of 2005 to more than $1.4 million in the first half of 2005. The Mississippi Tribe of Choctaw Indians — a former client of Abramoff’s at Greenberg that he has admitted to defrauding — even followed Volz, Ring, and Ayoob to Barnes & Thornburg, paying the firm $200,000 during the first six months of 2005, a sum that dwarfed fees collected from other clients. Bringing the Team Abramoff members on board was a gamble that Jeffrey Taylor, head of Barnes & Thornburg’s lobby practice, was willing to take. Last February Taylor said, “I recognize that [the scandal] is swirling around,” but added, “I am convinced that [Volz and Ring] are in the clear.” Abramoff’s plea deal with the government undoubtedly complicated things for Volz, however, since Abramoff implicated Ney — Volz’s former boss — for taking bribes. Ney’s attorney, Mark Tuohey of Vinson & Elkins, has publicly stated that his client is the unnamed Representative #1 cited in Abramoff’s plea agreement. Though Volz has left Barnes & Thornburg, Ring and Ayoob are still at the firm. Both Barnes & Thornburg lobby chief Taylor and managing partner Alan Levin declined to answer questions for this article, but Levin gave a statement that no “improper conduct has occurred by lobbyists while employed by Barnes & Thornburg.” With Rudy and Volz out of work, the focus shifts to their legal situations. So far, they are the only two lobbyists, other than Abramoff, to be implicated in the Justice Department’s investigation. Fish & Richardson partner Bill Mateja, a former Justice lawyer who oversaw corporate fraud investigations while at the department, says that Justice policy is not to name unindicted coconspirators. According to Mateja, that means that because Rudy and Volz are identified only as Staffers A and B, “odds are . . . they’re targets.” That could leave both men with more pressing concerns than finding new jobs. A version of this story originally appeared in Influence.

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