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Over the four years since he left public office, former Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers had remade himself into the ultimate outsider, suing state and local government with considerable success. But, with the ascent of Republicans to positions of state power, the Democrat-turned-Republican is now very much a political insider. He’ll be trading on that status with a new venture, the lobbying firm of Watson Bowers, and, at the same time, limiting his role as state government’s nemesis. Bowers has joined his son, lawyer Bruce E. Bowers, and John K. Watson, a consultant for Republican Gov. George E. “Sonny” Perdue III’s campaign, to form the lobbying and public relations firm. The remaining partners at Meadows, Ichter & Bowers — where Mike Bowers is a partner and Bruce Bowers is of counsel -also have a partnership stake in Watson Bowers. “Our relationships are primarily Republican, and there are not that many folks that have that,” said Mike Bowers. “We saw this as a business opportunity.” But the new venture will put some litigation limitations on the law firm’s government operations team that Bowers had assembled over the last few years. Since he left the attorney general’s office, Bowers had built a successful practice suing state and local government. Now that he’s using his state government connections on behalf of clients, however, he won’t pursue any actions against the state, he said. Last year, Bowers won a $16.6 million judgment for seven librarians by convincing a federal jury that the Atlanta-Fulton County Library’s board had transferred and demoted them because they were white. The case is on appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He also persuaded a federal judge to redraw Fulton County’s commission districts because they discriminated against white voters. He was unsuccessful, however, in a challenge to one of former Gov. Roy E. Barnes’ judicial appointments. Bowers has challenged the state transportation department’s bond financing package that would have included funding for the Northern Arc. In September, a Fulton judge ruled against Bowers’ client, a citizens coalition, saying that the bond issue was constitutional. Recently, Bowers argued the appeal at the Georgia Supreme Court. Watson Bowers will focus its lobbying and planning in Georgia, the Southeast and the federal sector. Bowers said the Watson firm is in talks with four potential clients, but declined to name them. The Watson outfit will share space with Meadows Ichter, but the two firms will operate separately, using cross-selling opportunities, said Mike Bowers. Bruce Bowers and Watson will become registered lobbyists, and Mike Bowers will register if the need arises, he said. “The reason why we did it this way was to give John Watson a membership interest,” said Bowers. State Bar of Georgia rules would prohibit Watson, who is not an attorney, from splitting fees with the Bowerses if the entity was a subsidiary of Meadows Ichter. Watson was Bowers’ campaign manager when he made an unsuccessful run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1998. After working for Perdue’s election last year, Watson became vice chairman of his transition team. He’ll be a full-time partner with Watson Bowers, while Bruce Bowers will split his time doing government relations and strategic planning for the firm, while remaining at Meadows Ichter. Meadows Ichter isn’t the only law firm in town whose partners have branched into lobbying, but it might have the best connections to the right side of the aisle. McKenna Long & Aldridge’s government affairs practice is co-chaired by partner Keith W. Mason, who led former Vice President Albert A. Gore Jr.’s presidential campaign in Georgia. Mason also was chief of staff to former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller. McKenna partner George “Buddy” Darden, who lost an 11th Congressional District primary race against Roger Kahn for the Democratic nomination in August, was a member of the U.S. House from 1983 to 1994. Other Democratic politicos at McKenna Long include partner Steven J. Labovitz, former Mayor William C. Campbell’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997. Partner Edgar H. Sims Jr., who co-chairs the government affairs group with Mason, served as chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia from 1990 to 1995. Eric J. Tanenblatt left that group in December to become Perdue’s chief of staff. He chaired President George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign in Georgia. In late 2001, Troutman Sanders created a public affairs subsidiary, hiring M. Peterson “Pete” Robinson, a former legislator and partner at Columbus, Ga.-based Page, Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker & Ford, former of counsel Robert F. “Robb” Willis III and first-year associate Rebecca R. Burgess.

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