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Van Scoyoc Associates will offer consulting services, investment advice, and business development targeted at the education sector. BGR Holding is getting into mergers and acquisitions, strategic consulting, and divestitures. And Cassidy & Associates, which has long lobbied for foreign governments, now wants to help American companies explore doing business abroad. Doesn’t anyone want to lobby anymore? Oh, none of these high-profile lobby shops are anywhere close to getting out of the business. But they are pushing outside the usual inside-the-Beltway influence game, investing resources into new offerings as they look for new and different ways to grow. Former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), who is opening a new lobbying firm with former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), says lobbying itself is more complex than it used to be and involves more than simply pleading a client’s case to a member of Congress. Now, firms have to shape the client’s message and advise them on strategy, something that forms a bridge to some of these new ventures. “I think the world of �lobbying,’ quote unquote, is dramatically changing,” he says. “Nowadays, to be a full-service operation, you have to be involved with strategic advice.” TOO GOOD TO PASS UP The firms offer up different reasons for diversifying now. Some say the days of endless earmarks are drawing to a close, and too many lobbyists are working for appropriations. Others wonder if lobbying’s constant growth can keep pace forever. But mostly, they say they see untapped business opportunities that are too good to pass up. At least one firm, Dutko Worldwide, has long made its federal lobbying only one part of a diverse picture. And it hasn’t hurt. In fact, the firm ranked seventh on Legal Times‘ Influence 50 list in 2007, with $33.4 million, the highest of any non-law firm, but only about half the company’s revenue is from straight federal lobbying. “It’s not just about diversification,” says Dutko CEO Mark Irion. “It’s about evolution.” The firm describes itself as a global public policy firm, not a lobby shop. It has an office in Prague, helps American and European companies conduct business in the Baltics, and could open another overseas base this year. A diversified template “is a more dynamic offering to your client to have your consultants understand their business and have different ways of helping them achieve their goals,” he says. WAKING UP Other lobby shops are waking up to the idea of diversifying, but in areas that play to existing strengths. For instance, Gregg Hartley, vice president and chief operating officer of Cassidy & Associates, says that Cassidy’s move towards serving American companies looking to do business abroad by helping them navigate foreign governments and business environments is a natural evolution that uses the firm’s expertise. It uses knowledge Cassidy lobbyists built up while serving foreign companies with interests here and working with foreign governments. Last year, he says, the firm started to talk about building up its international work and planning “to bring in some additional people that strengthen what these people have to offer” and can attract new clients. For instance, Cassidy hired former Ambassador Robin Raphel last summer. Before joining Cassidy, Raphel’s most recent post was in the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction — experience that could make her attractive to companies interested in working in Iraq, Hartley says. Right now, international work hovers between 8 percent and 10 percent of Cassidy’s revenue. The goal is to more than double that, bringing it to 20 percent to 25 percent of revenue over the next three to five years. The firm has yet to sign any companies looking to expand abroad as clients, but, Hartley says, the firm knows getting that work is “a matter of building relationships” and could take time. BIG ENOUGH Ed Rogers, the BGR partner who will serve as chairman for BGR Capital & Trade, says the firm has long informally helped clients put together business deals. “In our case, we’re big enough and we have a client base that … wants more from us,” he says. The firm is also eyeing public relations services. Ken Griffin, the new president of BGR Capital & Trade, was previously a director of the strategic investment banking group at Taylor Cos., a Washington-based mergers and acquisitions firm. He says BGR Capital & Trade is already working on its first deal, though he and Rogers wouldn’t release details or the name of the client. “In the next three months, we’ll have a half-dozen full-time people,” Griffin says, adding that lobbyists specializing in certain sectors will also be pulled in to use their expertise on behalf of specific deals. Rogers says some of the firm’s “biggest fees in the last few years have been business to business,” such as matching clients up with partners and clients. Hiring Griffin and starting BGR Capital & Trade formalizes the work the firm was already doing, he says. “It occurred to us, why don’t we have a platform that’s populated with business folks?” Rogers says. “Of the big things that we’re doing, we’re already doing all of them. We’re just going to better organize the firm and hire to better credential the firm in some areas.” Van Scoyoc’s executives say their new initiative, too, is something that complements work they’re already doing. The firm represents a wide range of education clients, from the Chicago public schools to the board of trustees for the University of Arkansas and the Educational Testing Service. Vic Klatt, who just rejoined Van Scoyoc after serving as minority staff director for the House Committee on Education and Labor, is heading up the firm’s still-nameless new venture. He says it’s designed to take the firm’s existing client list “and branch off into other arenas, like consulting and business development and advising investors in education.” The new group will lobby on education policy, Klatt says, and could eventually even invest in education companies. Klatt says the firm is planning to hire a bipartisan group of staffers with backgrounds in both the private sector and the government, to staff the venture. Van Scoyoc currently has three affiliated companies, including a law firm and a group that helps companies navigate through the government grant process; each brings in roughly $2 million per year. Firm president Stu Van Scoyoc says new offerings are a “normal evolution” of government relations services. He, too, says he sees a trend among firms looking to diversify, but he stresses that he doesn’t expect a downturn in Van Scoyoc’s lobbying revenues, despite the conventional wisdom that says election years are slow legislative ones. “I think some other firms may be looking at [diversifying] because they’re running into issues with lobbying,” he says.
Carrie Levine can be contacted at [email protected].

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