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Lobbyist trades K Street for MLB

Kevin McGuiness is closing down a multimillion-dollar lobby firm for a new career in pinstripes.

McGuiness, a longtime lobbyist for the players, is heading to New York City to join the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) as its new chief operating officer.

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McGuiness, a Washington Nationals season ticket holder since professional baseball returned to D.C., said he couldn’t turn down the chance to work for the players.

“The MLBPA, the things that they have accomplished, the remarkable people that they have. How could you not want to be a part of this organization? It’s such a great opportunity,” McGuiness told The Hill.

As chief operating officer of the union, McGuiness will oversee its day-to-day operations, including budgeting and staffing. He starts Feb. 3

“Kevin’s legal, representational and administrative background, as well as his long-standing history working on behalf of our membership, will serve the players well moving forward,” said Tony Clark, the MLBPA’s executive director, in a statement.

McGuiness’s hire is part of a changing of the guard at the players association.

Clark took the helm of the players association after long-time union official Michael Weiner died in November. He is expanding player services by hiring more staff at the union, including retired pitcher Bob Tewksbury in a new position as director of player development.

The union has been at the center of some of baseball’s biggest controversies, from the 1994-1995 players strike to the scandal over performance-enhancing drugs. The latest dispute has been over Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for a year due to alleged drug use and is suing the players union for poor representation.

In response to the suit, Clark said Rodriguez’s “claim is completely without merit, and we will aggressively defend ourselves and our members from these baseless charges.”

“As long as I have worked for the PA, we have always been confronted by some big challenges. But this association has always risen to those challenges, and I’m more than confident that we will continue to be the most effective player organization in the country,” McGuiness said.

Another issue on McGuiness’s plate is the union’s collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire in 2016 and will have to be negotiated with a new commissioner due to the coming departure of Bud Selig.

“For every union, their most important issue for them is their collective bargaining agreement and ours will be up in two years,” McGuiness said.

As part of his transition to the MLBPA, McGuiness will be leaving his long-time professional home in the District. The Bethesda, Md., native joined the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee in 1982, later becoming Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) chief of staff. In 1991, he moved onto lobbying, with an interlude as campaign manager for Hatch’s 2000 presidential bid.

He started his own lobby firm, the McGuiness Group, in 2004.

The shop has done well, taking in roughly $5 million in lobbying fees from 2005-2013, according to disclosure records. That revenue has declined over the years though, from its first-year high of $860,000 in 2005 to about $407,000 last year.

McGuiness has vast experience in sports lobbying, having been registered to lobby for the MLBPA since 2005. He also consults for several of the other professional sports players unions at the state level. 

McGuiness is also closing his communications operation, Canal Street Communications. His departure could leave his five lobbying clients up for grabs, including tobacco giant R J Reynolds and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

“I will be terminating my lobbying registrations. … I’m hoping that will free up my email account from the 10 to 20 fundraiser invitations that I get every day,” McGuiness joked. 

 McGuiness said the players union has no plans to open up a Washington office as of yet, saying, “I couldn’t justify one, when I was a lobbyist, so I certainly can’t justify one now.”

The MLBPA, however, might have to hire a new outside lobbyist to replace McGuiness. 

“We will consider that as the need arises,” McGuiness said.