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SACRAMENTO � McKenna Long & Aldridge launched its Sacramento office this month with big-name directors, international credentials and a swaggering pledge to take its share of California’s $228 million lobbying pie. “There’s always room for new players,” Eric Tanenblatt, head of McKenna’s government affairs practice, said Tuesday. If Tanenblatt is right, McKenna will join two other national firms that have created successful lobbying arms in the capital, gauged by the rough yardstick of reported lobbying income. Manatt, Phelps & Phillips enjoyed receipts of $506,000 in the quarter ending Sept. 30 and is on track to record total payments well over $3 million for the two-year legislative session that ends next month. Greenberg Traurig’s Sacramento office is also celebrating a good year, with receipts of $1.7 million since acquiring Livingston & Mattesich Law Corp. in October 2005. But if Tanenblatt is wrong, McKenna could find itself on a growing list of firms that have found the capital’s tantalizing but insular lobbying market less than golden. Foley & Lardner merged with Sacramento’s Steffes Group in 2003, but the marriage hasn’t blossomed, at least not on the government affairs side of the ledger, financial reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office suggest. The firm has just two registered lobbyists now after a third, veteran Timothy Howe, struck out on his own in September. Receipts for the most recent legislative session dropped below earnings for previous two-year cycles. Bond counsel giant Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has never grown beyond its current two-person lobbying shop. And Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has cut its lobbying staff from six to two over the last three years, according to state records. Pillsbury recorded payments of just over $88,000 for July, August and September. “It’s a very competitive practice and success really depends on what a firm has to offer,” said Gene Livingston, managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig’s capital office. “It really takes a while to build up a client base and a successful office.” Tanenblatt insists McKenna Long & Aldridge, known as a government contracts specialist, has advantages over other firms. McKenna already has established offices in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles with lawyers connected to capital goings-on, he said. Their co-managing director, Jeffrey Miller, former chief financial officer for the California Republican Party, worked for McKenna in Sacramento even before the new office opened. And co-director Richard Costigan is just wrapping up a three-year tenure as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief legislative liaison. Costigan is barred from lobbying the governor’s office for a year but he is free to advise clients on the inner workings of the executive branch. The difference between McKenna and other legal-lobbying firms, Tanenblatt said, “is that our firm has made a strategic decision to focus on government.” “We want to be known as the firm that focuses on the intersection of business and government.” But some longtime lobbyists, reluctant to speak publicly, were skeptical that McKenna has carved out any unique niche in Sacramento. “You wonder how a firm brings value when its first hire was the treasurer of the Republican Party and its second permanent hire can’t lobby [the governor] for a year,” said one veteran lobbyist who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Are they focused on substance or perception?” Tanenblatt brushed off such doubts and said existing McKenna clients are already talking about doing business with the firm’s Sacramento office. “We anticipate significant growth in the next year,” he said.

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