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Tax season may be over for most, but in Congress, it never ends. That’s why Pennsylvania-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney brought in former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and two aides last week to its growing roster of Washington political professionals. “The core of Buchanan Ingersoll has always had a very active and successful tax practice,” says Ronald Platt, head of the firm’s government relations practice. Platt says the firm was looking for someone to bridge the gap between the tax practitioners and lobbying. Bringing on the 14-term congressman and one of his longest-serving aides, Robert Winters, happened more by chance than by a coordinated effort. Platt was in talks with Winters, who most recently was chief tax counsel for the Ways and Means Committee under Thomas, to join the firm earlier this year, but then got a call from a recruiter saying that Thomas might be interested in joining the firm as well. Thomas is also joined by Alex Brill, who was the senior adviser to the chairman and chief economist for the committee. Brill was the top committee staff negotiator for the Pension Protection Act, the most significant rewrite in pension legislation in over 30 years. Thomas, 65, who retired last year and would have been forced to resign his post as chairman if he had stayed because of Republican-imposed term limits, was widely known throughout Washington as one of the hardest-working lawmakers. He also has a reputation for being difficult to work with. Platt says he isn’t worried about Thomas’ people skills. “People will tell you — [even those] who don’t like Bill Thomas — that he’s a brilliant guy.” The pair met several times before signing on the dotted line — talking about where tax policy is going to go in the next five years. “One of the things we want to do is anticipate what may occur down the road that could affect our clients,” Thomas says. “If we know where our clients are trying to go and what they are hoping to accomplish, we can offer legislative or policy solutions to help them get there.” Although he will be a member of the government relations practice, Thomas will not register to lobby. He says he expects to focus on giving strategic advice to clients and will work out of Buchanan’s California and D.C. offices. “The cooperative team effort, which makes sense for those in direct lobbying, is tailor-made for what I used to do for the Ways and Means Committee,” Thomas says. And, he’s known for getting things done. Thomas, a big supporter of President George W. Bush, is widely credited with pushing forward three major tax cut bills, adding a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare, and getting the Trade Promotion Authority restored for the president during his tenure. During the 109th Congress, however, Thomas publicly challenged Bush’s Social Security reform plan, which meant it had no chance of getting out of committee. “What I really wanted to do was try to be in a position to continue to work with members on long-term, fundamental change that is so difficult to bring about most of the time in the tax area, trade area, and health-care area,” says Thomas of his decision to join the firm as senior adviser. He also serves as a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Buchanan’s D.C. office hasn’t had much success with former lawmakers. Former Reps. Bill Gray (D-Pa.) and Jon Christiensen (R-Neb.) did short stints at the firm before exiting to set up solo operations. But the 550-member firm has built up its lobbying presence over the past three years and now has 16 lobbyists in its D.C. office. Last year, it made $14.3 million in lobbying revenue. Last week, the firm signed on two new clients. Jumping on the energy bandwagon, Buchanan is lobbying on tax policy and agriculture issues for TMO, a company involved in cellulose ethanol production and research. The firm also signed energy client Callahan & Chase Inc., for government procurement. The firm, which has two offices in California, is looking to expand westward and may use Thomas as a springboard to open a shop in the state capital of Sacramento. “I anticipate an increased presence in California,” Thomas says. “[The firm] plans on a major presence in the state. It’s one of the reasons they were also interested in me, being from California.”
Anna Palmer can be contacted at [email protected].

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