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The Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. are frequent rivals, but that never stopped lobbying firms from juggling both as clients — until now. The fight over the $40 billion contract to supply the Pentagon with refueling tankers is the sort lobbyists can’t just watch from the sidelines. Two firms with a foot in each camp, McBee Strategic Consulting and Policy Impact Communications, have dropped Northrop, severing long-term client relationships in the process. “We actually reached out to Northrop Grumman and told them that we were going to have to stop,” says McBee’s Rick Desimone. Even though McBee worked on separate issues for the two companies, the scale and intensity of the tanker dispute made the appearance of conflict unavoidable. Northrop, which spent only a quarter as much as Boeing’s $240,000 on McBee’s services last year, was let go. Policy Impact Communications made the same choice. Alvin Jackson, a former legislative affairs director for Boeing, signed up both contractors shortly after moving to Bergner, Bockorny Castagnetti, Hawkins & Brain in 2001. The contractors stuck with the lobbyist over the years, following Jackson to Policy Impact Communications in January. The tanker contract is “a big emotional issue for these companies,” says Policy Impact Communications’ John Haddow about Boeing and Northrop. “This issue forced everybody to make a pick.” Asked for comment, a Boeing representative said the company was unaware of the firm’s decision. Northrop didn’t return a call seeking comment, but is hardly bereft of representation: Still representing the company according to Senate records are BGR Holding, Brown & Co., Carter Consulting, Collins & Co., and the Commonwealth Consulting Corp. (That’s just the list from A to C.)
Jeff Horwitz can be contacted at [email protected].

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