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Former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) says he’s always wanted to go into business with his son, John Breaux Jr. But when he left the Senate three years ago, he hesitated. “I decided I wasn’t ready to start out on my own with John,” he says. “I was worried about whether we could be successful when I hadn’t done that kind of work before.” So Breaux, after receiving so many offers that he had to hire an agent, opted to join Patton Boggs. He knew fellow Louisianian and firm partner Thomas Boggs Jr. well, and he took an offer reportedly worth between $1 million and $2 million per year. “There’s a strong personal relationship there, and with the firm being such a strong firm, it was able to supply the support I thought was absolutely critical,” Breaux says. During the past three years, Breaux has established himself as one of Washington’s leading lobbyists, with a reputation for working hard and effectively advocating for a client list that includes Verizon, Wal-Mart, and a host of Louisiana-based companies. But Breaux’s Patton Boggs contract expires at the end of the year. And last Wednesday, after weeks of rumors on K Street about his intentions, Breaux announced his new venture. The father-and-son team will open an office in January (they’re working to find suitable office space). In an internal e-mail, Boggs said he and Breaux are discussing ways for Breaux to continue working with Patton Boggs as counsel and as a strategic adviser. Managing partner Stuart Pape also stresses the firm’s desire to keep Breaux in some capacity. Breaux confirms that such negotiations are ongoing. K Street is also speculating whether Breaux’s move has any connection to the unexpected announcement last week by Mississippi Republican Trent Lott that he is leaving the Senate at the end of the year. Though in opposing parties, the two are old friends and have done little to derail talk of a potential partnership, acknowledging that they’ve discussed the possibility of going into business together. Even if Breaux does retain some sort of working relationship with the firm, his departure isn’t welcome news for Patton Boggs. Lobbying registrations involving Breaux totaled more than $1.7 million at the middle of this year, and firm partners clearly wanted the former senator to stay in the fold. Breaux declined to discuss whether any of his clients would follow him to his new firm, saying that he still has “an obligation to Patton Boggs, which I want to make sure I am careful about fulfilling.” Many of his clients — including Sallie Mae, the United States-India Business Council, and Verizon — registered with the firm after Breaux joined, in 2006 and 2007, and were not institutional clients. Pape says he expects many of the clients to stay with Patton Boggs, and he is “very hopeful that we will have a continuing relationship with Senator Breaux.” TAKING A HIT Last year, Patton Boggs ranked No. 2 on the Influence 50, Legal Times‘ ranking of the highest-grossing lobbying practices. The firm reported $71 million in lobbying revenue (more than a quarter of the firm’s overall gross, which was $255.5 million in 2006). If Breaux’s salary is as reported and the midyear reports are an accurate reflection of his earnings for the firm, he likely contributed at least double his salary to the bottom line. In 2005, Legal Times reported that Boggs had said he was personally responsible for 20 percent of the firm’s gross revenue. As Breaux’s profile rose, lobbyists inside and outside the firm began to quietly talk about whether his high profile and thick file of contacts took some of the pressure off Boggs. When Breaux toyed with running for governor of Louisiana last year, fellow lobbyists, press reports, and those doing the math on the firm’s lobbying disclosure reports were quick to say it would be difficult and expensive were the firm to lose him. He decided against running after opponents raised questions about whether he could meet the state’s residency requirement. Breaux also led efforts to help his home state recover from Hurricane Katrina, and his client list reflects his continuing ties to Louisiana. The roster includes Entergy New Orleans (which had paid the firm $80,000 as of the middle of the year) and Louisiana Economic Development ($100,000 as of midyear), among others. But the diverse list also includes Sallie Mae ($120,000 by midyear), Cerberus Capital Management ($340,000 by midyear), and Royal Caribbean Cruises ($140,000 by midyear). “He works long hours, he prepares hard, he’s very generous with his time,” says Nick Allard, co-chairman of Patton Boggs’ public policy practice. Allard also describes Breaux as an expert on the legislative process and “like the Energizer Bunny. It’s been a joy working with John Breaux, and we all are looking forward to working with him one way or another in the future.” The loss of Breaux is “clearly a big hit,” says Rich Gold, head of the public policy group at Patton Boggs rival Holland & Knight. “There are certainly numerous clients that have come there, since Breaux has come there, with the expectation of having his expertise and counsel.” Pape didn’t want to talk about replacing Breaux, saying instead that the firm is always “on the prowl for more good folks. I think that’s in part why we’ve been as successful as we have,” he adds. As for speculation that Breaux could have eventually been a successor to Boggs, Pape says, “A person like Tom Boggs is not replaceable in any meaningful sense of the word �replaceable.’… Who is the person that replaces Tom? We’ve obviously, over the years, built a large and very versatile team of folks, and that’s been sort of part of the strategy of institutionalizing the brand.” WINNING THE LOTT-ERY? Breaux now faces the challenge of building his own brand, and he says he plans to start small. He says he will be cautious about bringing on other staff, and expects to take a pay cut — possibly even working without a salary at first. “Money is great, and money is nice, but it’s not the motivation for happiness,” Breaux said in a telephone interview from Louisiana. “You’ve got to enjoy the challenges. Obviously I’m going to start off at a much lower financial level than I was able to do [at Patton Boggs]. They were very generous to me at Patton Boggs, and I’ll never forget that.” Bringing on Trent Lott, of course, could beef up the startup’s bottom line. The two men started out working for congressmen at roughly the same time before later serving together in the House, then the Senate, and both have stressed the friendship between their families. Their two families socialize and have vacationed together, their children are friends, and they invite each other to family weddings, Breaux says. Lott’s wife, Trish, is the godmother of one of Breaux’s daughters. As two former senators with reputations for bipartisan deal-making, Gulf Coast ties, and backgrounds on the powerful Commerce and Finance committees, the duo could be a muscular new force on K Street. Asked about the possibility of Lott joining the new firm, Breaux says, “I think that he knows that I’d love to have him involved, but we can’t really get into discussions about that until after he retires. But I want to be one of the first people to sit down and discuss it after he retires.” Lott’s son, Kentucky-based lobbyist Chester Lott, an affiliate of the Livingston Group, says his father has yet to decide what to do, besides hitting the lucrative lecture circuit. He’s also considering teaching and other options, Chester Lott says. Still, lobbying seems likely. Because he is stepping down before new rules go into force at the end of the year, Lott will be able to lobby after waiting one year. Under the new rules, departing senators would have to wait two years before lobbying their former colleagues. When asked if his father might go into business with the former Louisiana senator, Chester Lott says the two have “been kidding around about that since they were in the Senate, because, you know, they used to make deals in the Senate.” There’s also the chance that Chester Lott could be part of a new firm. Asked about his own plans, Chester Lott says, “It just depends on what Dad decides down the road.”
Carrie Levine can be contacted at [email protected].

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