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New Jersey lawyers who make part of their living trying to influence state government saw their revenues take a slight dip in 2000. The top 10 lawyer-lobbyist firms in the state earned about $5.3 million in fees, a tad below the $5.4 million earned in 1999, according to statistics released last month by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. This is the first time, in the seven years that the New Jersey Law Journal has tracked the figures, that total lawyer-lobbyists’ fees have dropped. From 1994 through 1999, lobbying revenue in the top 10 firms rose by an average 15.6 percent. The slowdown may be due, in part, to a slow year in the Legislature and the regulatory agencies, which saw few major agendas advanced. Lawyers at the surveyed firms predict a more active 2001. Indeed, lobbying remains a lucrative business in Trenton, N.J., where total revenues for all lobbyists registered with ELEC recorded fees of $24.5 million in 2000, slightly higher than the $23.7 million earned the year before. The top earner among lawyer-lobbyists was Princeton’s Issues Management Inc., despite severance from the law firm that created it. Last year, after swallowing Shanley & Fisher whole, Philadelphia’s Drinker Biddle & Reath moved to sell the lobbying subsidiary. It found an eager buyer in Roseland’s Lowenstein Sandler, which for years had wanted to move into the lobbying practice. Issues Management provided a fully staffed firm with a list of well-paying clients. “It’s a more recognizable name,” says Cindy Gordon, who replaced Michael Faigen as head partner shortly after the sale. Faigen remains on staff. Notwithstanding the tumult, Issues Management earned $1,521,955 in 2000, up from $1,319,142 in 1999. The Trenton office of Morristown’s Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti remained in the No. 2 spot, though its fees dipped to $904,220 from $996,502 in 1999. Despite the slight drop in revenues, partner John Sheridan says lobbying remains a lucrative business for the firm. The figures released by ELEC, he says, do not include fees for lobbying in certain regulatory areas, which do not have to be reported. Nor, he says, do the statistics include legal work performed by clients who hire them for lobbying work. Riker Danzig lost partner James Harkness, former chief counsel to the Senate Republicans, who left the firm in January to become chief counsel to Acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco. Sheridan says the firm had to cut its ties, financially and professionally, with Harkness, but lobbyists across the board say it does nothing but good to have a high-placed friend in a power position in the governor’s office. Joining Riker Danzig’s lobbying branch are John Kohler, the deputy chief of staff under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and former U.S. Rep. William Hughes, who during the Clinton administration was ambassador to Panama. Sheridan says Hughes will help expand the firm’s lobbying work at the federal level. Coming in third for the second year in row was Trenton’s Sterns & Weinroth. Once the top lawyer-lobbying firm, it slipped down after Issues Management and Riker Danzig began moving into the practice. In 2000, Sterns & Weinroth earned $694,476 in fees, down from $817,154 the year before. Although Issues Management remains firmly entrenched in the so-called Big Five lobby shops, it still lags far behind the two leaders: Princeton Public Affairs Group and Public Strategies/Impact, both of Trenton. Princeton Public Affairs earned fees of $4,852,648; Public Strategies/Impact earned $3,837,531. Princeton Public Affairs is headed by Bradley Brewster, the former executive director of the Assembly Republican office; Dale Florio, the Somerset County Republican Party chairman, and former Senate President John Russo, a Democrat. Public Strategies is headed by Harold Hodes, chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Brendan Byrne, and by Roger Bodman, a Republican strategist and a former transportation commissioner under Gov. Thomas Kean. Also finishing ahead of Issues Management was the GluckShaw Group, headed by Hazel Gluck, a transportation and insurance commissioner under Whitman, and by Judith Shaw, Whitman’s former chief of staff. The firm earned $2,161,053 in fees last year. Finishing fifth behind Issues Management was Nancy Becker Associates, headed by Nancy Becker, the former head of the New Jersey branch of Common Cause and now a member of the New Jersey Turnpike Commission. The firm earned $1,168,501 in fees last year. In 2000, Issues Management’s top client was the Southern Middlesex Industrial Park Association, which paid the firm $193,214 in fees. Gordon says the association has several major ongoing development projects in lower Middlesex and upper Mercer counties, and needs help with regulatory work before the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation. Pharmaceutical companies, many of which are headquartered in New Jersey, always play an active role in lobbying, and last year was no exception. Schering-Plough Corp. was Issues Management’s No. 2 client, paying $190,600 in fees. The firm’s third-biggest client last year was the New Jersey Organ & Tissue Sharing Network, which paid the firm $173,048 in fees. Gordon says the group is aggressively moving to update the state’s laws and regulations on organ donation and to bring them into conformity with federal standards. And for years, it has tried to make it easier for drivers to note on their licenses that they want to donate their organs and tissues when they die. “Hopefully, that’s going to happen this year,” Gordon says. Like pharmaceutical issues, health-care issues annually rank as a hot-button issue. That was especially true for Camden’s Cooper Health System, which was Riker Danzig’s biggest client last year, paying the firm $130,925 in fees. Sports teams also made it a good year for Riker Danzig. With the Nets and the Devils looking for state help in financing a new arena in downtown Newark, they created a partnership, Newark Sports & Entertainment LLC, which paid the firm $104,494. In the days before Whitman headed off to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency, she agreed to a deal that would have provided $125 million in grants and loans to help finance the arena. But DiFrancesco backed away from the deal almost immediately, saying neither he nor the Legislature had been privy to the negotiations. Sheridan says he hopes a satisfactory deal can be brokered. Insurance is another hot-button issue. For years, the American Insurance Association, an industry group, has been Sterns & Weinroth’s biggest client, and last year was no exception. The group paid the firm $121,286 in fees. A chemical company, NL Industries, was the firm’s second-biggest client, paying $71,015 in fees. Princeton’s Jamieson, Moore, Peskin & Spicer moved from fifth spot to fourth among the top lawyer-lobbying firms last year, earning $378,193 in fees. In 1999, the firm earned $353,378. Its biggest client was State Farm Insurance Co., which paid the firm $132,000. Moving from seventh spot to fifth was the Trenton office of Philadelphia’s Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley. Its revenues were $374,826 last year, compared with $337,124 the year before. The firm’s lobbying department is headed by David Norcross, the head of New Jersey’s operations for the Republican National Committee and a one-time candidate for Republican national chairman. Its biggest client was Aetna U.S. Healthcare, which paid the firm $156,609 in fees. Cranford’s Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci moved from eighth to sixth last year, with fees of $353,352. Its biggest client was the University of Phoenix, an emerging online institute, which paid the firm $90,000 in fees. Dropping from sixth to seventh was Hackettstown’s Courter, Kobert, Laufer & Cohen, headed by former U.S. Rep. James Courter. Last year, the firm earned $308,124 from lobbying. Its primary client was energy giant Enron Corp., which paid the firm $121,254 in fees. In 1999, the firm earned $338,721 from lobbying. Coming in eighth, and dropping from the No. 4 position, was the Alman Group, headed by former Kean chief of staff Edward McGlynn. In 1999, the firm earned $428,000 through lobbying, but last year its revenues dropped to $280,000. Its biggest client was the city of Newark, which paid the firm $60,000. The last two positions remain unchanged from the previous year: Trenton’s Caldwell-Megna followed by the Trenton office of Morristown’s Graham, Curtin & Sheridan. Caldwell-Megna, headed by Wesley Caldwell III and William Megna, had revenues of $260,361 last year, compared with $282,355 the year before. Its main client was the American Family of Life Insurance Companies, which paid the firm $133,915. Graham Curtin had revenues in 2000 of $253,955, an increase from 1999 revenues of $241,360. Its biggest client, Oxford Health Plans, paid $90,881.

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