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Republican lobbyist Lanny Griffith’s demeanor is as if he were fishing by the bank of a river on a lazy afternoon, despite the usual intensity that envelops Washington the day before a major election. Slouched in a chair on the 10th floor of an expansive lower Pennsylvania Avenue office building, his right leg dangling over the arm of the chair, Griffith slowly sways his head to the left and right as the Mississippi native muses about his all-Republican firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, now in its 15th year. Griffith, a history buff and former assistant secretary of education for President George H.W. Bush, seems unfazed by the dire Washington forecast for his party. His business model at the firm, which has strong ties to the Senate and White House and no Democratic lobbyists on staff, will remain unchanged. “Regardless of Tuesday’s election, it’s not our plan to become bipartisan,” says Griffith, the firm’s partner and chief executive. “I don’t foresee a time in the future when we change what is working.” Of course, that was Monday. On Tuesday, Democrats swept to power, ousting Republicans after 12 years of minority status in the House. Old liberal House dogs such as Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) will reprise their roles as chairmen of, respectively, the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Judiciary Committee. The victory elevates the status of some of the Republicans’ most demonized lawmakers, such as Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is poised to become Senate majority leader, and, of course, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the liberal California Democrat who will become the first female speaker of the House. And just like that, Republican lobbyists have gone from playing offense to playing defense. “I’ve just gone out and got my San Francisco Giants sweatshirt, I’m practicing drinking wine spritzers, and I’m going to learn to eat quiche,” says Republican lobbyist Ron Phillips of mCapitol Management. “I’m trying the best I can, since I only have a few weeks before this next Congress.” Even Griffith and Ed Rogers, the firm’s chairman, display a similar tongue-in-cheek attitude and uncomfortable shifting at the utterance of the name �Pelosi.’ “Clients aren’t anxious about our business model,” says Griffith. “More people are concerned about Nancy Pelosi.” Despite the electoral defeats, Barbour Griffith, the brainchild of Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Rogers, will remain among the handful of all-Republican firms in town. And those familiar with the inner workings of Barbour Griffith expect its business — $21.9 million last year in lobby revenues, according to the Influence 50 — will soar. “They constantly bring in new blood and don’t just rest on their laurels,” says Jim Pitts, founding principal of DC Navigators, another historically all-Republican firm. “Every few months we’ll see a player they’ve plucked from the administration who usually comes in and begins a new practice area at the firm or beefs up a practice area. In our job, you are as good as your contacts.” ALL IS FAIR IN WAR Many lobby firms on K Street have adopted the bipartisan-model trend, which allows them to adapt quite easily to a change in political leadership. And plenty of these firms that are well situated quickly dismiss the few remaining recalcitrants out there holding true to their partisan ideology. In these times of tight political margins, they simply don’t have a wise business model, those lobbyists say. “I don’t even worry about those firms,” barks Marty Russo, a former Democratic congressman and a lobbyist at Cassidy & Associates. “We’ve been a bipartisan firm from the beginning and have gone through every configuration since Gerry [Cassidy] started this. We’ve been through everything.” Yet so has Barbour Griffith. For the firm, the current Democratic coup doesn’t represent the end of the firm. If anything, it represents a return to something that comes naturally to its players: combat. Griffith and other Republican lobbyists in town say some of their best work is done when there is legislation by the opposition to defeat. “They [clients] will see policy that is detrimental or a threat to a business model, and clients will hire us to be against that,” says Griffith. “The business is most challenging, and most fun, when there is some division in government. That’s when being partisan matters more to me.” Indeed, the firm had one of its largest successes in 1993 when then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced her roundly condemned health care plan. Big business wanted no part of it and sought out Barbour Griffith to defeat the Democratic proposal. But how much combat work will there be? It remains to be seen, says one Democratic lobbyist. “Part of being the minority is to be combative and the loyal opposition,” says the lobbyist, who asked not to be named. “Every bill Nancy [Pelosi] brings to the floor will start with 195 Republicans voting against it. Why would you hire BGR? What are you technically shoring up if Republicans are already with you?” Those at the firm note that Barbour Griffith, which saw a 47 percent spike in lobby revenues last year alone, has expanded in recent years into more practice areas — particularly health care and international work — in addition to state advocacy work. Although the firm has deep ties to Senate Republicans — particularly the former majority leader, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — the firm also works extensively with the executive branch. They’ve also worked with Democrats, including Anthony Podesta with PodestaMattoon and Thomas Boggs at Patton Boggs. “They are not door openers; they master substance and work collegially with other people,” says Podesta. “You wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers, but the Republicans still do control the executive branch, and a lot of decisions get made there. And being a trusted voice in 49 Senate offices is a good thing, too. There is no question they would have preferred a different outcome in the House and Senate, but they were good when Clinton was in the White House, and they’ll be good with Reid and Pelosi.” Barbour was sold to InterPublic Group in 1999, but after four years, Griffith and other principals decided to repurchase their old shop. Part of the restructuring agreement in 2004 stipulated that the firm add practice areas. Now Barbour Griffith has a sizable health care practice that includes clients such as UnitedHealth Group and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers Association of America. Additionally, the firm has had a handful of tobacco-related clients, including Philip Morris Cos., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., and Lorillard Tobacco Co. In September the firm hired Mary Lacey Reuther, a former special assistant to the administrator at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a former special assistant to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Leading the firm’s international effort is Robert Blackwill, the former presidential envoy to Iraq under President George W. Bush. According to Senate lobbying records, the firm was hired this fall by Serbia to “provide guidance and counsel with regard to issues impacting the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Serbia.” It also works with Dubai International Capital, an international investment arm of Dubai Holding, a company that’s part of the United Arab Emirates government. The lobby firm registered with the Senate to lobby for the company three weeks after Dubai International had become the second Dubai-owned company to be investigated by the U.S. government over the security risks of its business within the United States. The State of Qatar and the Republic of India also pulled the lobby firm on board this year as they seek assistance with U.S. policy and affairs concerning their countries. “International business is much less connected to who controls Congress,” wrote Ed Rogers, the firm’s chairman, in an e-mail. “U.S. Foreign policy is lead [sic] by the White House and the State Department, in consultation with Congress. Furthermore, a large percentage of our international practice involves business to business transactions or helping U.S. companies better compete in foreign marketplaces.” THE ART OF PATIENCE One issue that will keep Republicans unified and corralled is tort reform. With Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisc.) at the helm of the House Judiciary Committee, “there was a dependability that [Republican lobbyists] could get such bills through the hearing process,” says Democratic lobbyist John Merrigan of DLA Piper. “The Chamber [of Commerce] and others are still motivated to try to resolve the issues and will not recede. Republican groups will stay active, and I think they will actively try to find moments when they can key up tort reform as an election issue.” The new Democratic majority has yet to set an agenda. But for Griffith, who spent years trying to establish a Republican majority in Mississippi when no one in the South was a Republican, patience is key. “I do think I’ve learned the humility that comes from defeats,” he says. “We had a lot of defeats. We understood what it was like to endure. But that forces you to spend time on your ideas and principles, because that’s the only thing that drives you.”
Joe Crea can be contacted at [email protected]. Reporter Osita Iroegbu contributed to this article.

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