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PR firm Levick starts lobby practice

Levick, known for its public relations expertise, is making a move into the influence game.

An experienced team of lobbyists from Dow Lohnes Government Strategies is joining Levick to launch a lobbying practice, the firm announced Monday.

Rick Kessler will lead the lobbying operation as senior vice president. He told The Hill he was excited about merging lobbying and public affairs communications in one shop.

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“We really wanted a platform where the sum was going to be greater than the individual parts,” Kessler said. “We wouldn’t be just another add-on. We would be an integrated part of the team.”

Mark Irion, Levick’s president, said the firm is adapting to the times.

“Every discipline of the communications trade is necessarily evolving in the digital era, and lobbying is no exception. Levick’s vision is to marry the direct communications of lobbying with our expertise in informing and shaping public sentiment. Communications supported lobbying is what’s next to effectively build public consensus and bolster political will,” Irion said in a statement.

Irion formerly headed up Dutko Worldwide, one of K Street’s most well-known brands.

Also joining Kessler at Levick is Michael Scrivner, Jessica Lenard and Pete Leon. All four have deep Capitol Hill experience. Kessler served as chief of staff for then-ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The new K Street team could bring in substantial business. Dow Lohnes Government Strategies brought in close to $1.9 million in lobbying fees for 2013, according to disclosure records. The firm lobbied for some prominent clients in 2013 before filing termination reports for them this past quarter, including Calpine Corp., Chevron, Overstock.com and Qualcomm, according to records.

The cohort of lobbyists coming to Levick includes some, though not all, of the registered advocates who were at Dow Lohnes.

Law firm Dow Lohnes merged last year with Cooley, another law firm, but the lobby practice wasn’t included in the deal. Since then, Dow Lohnes Government Strategies has been on the lookout for a new home.

K Street has not had a banner year in 2013, and Kessler said communications and issue advocacy are increasingly important skills for lobbyists.

“You have seen the reports on lobbying revenue. You have to offer something different and cutting-edge than before. I think Mark and Richard [Levick, CEO of Levick] really understand that and bring that capability,” Kessler said.

Adding the lobbying team is part of Levick’s plan to roll out other new practices in 2014.

The firm has sought to build out, having hired Irion and former Rep. Steve Bartlett (R-Texas), the former head of the Financial Services Roundtable, last year.