By Megan R. Wilson - 07/31/14 06:00 AM EDT
Former Sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) are plotting an expansion from their new perch at Squire Patton Boggs.
K Street’s most famous duo says the merger with an international law firm will help them take their practice to another level.
Breaux and Lott now control the entire public policy practice at Squire Patton Boggs but say their new managerial role won’t keep them from Capitol Hill, where they are frequently seen roaming the halls and chatting up former colleagues.
“We’re still doing the same things that we were doing before,” Breaux said. “Trent and I both are still down on the Hill, meeting with members, meeting with staff, meeting with the administration.”
The merger between Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders resulted in the loss of a lucrative healthcare lobbying practice and a slew of lobbyists, but Lott says the firm is moving quickly to refill its ranks.
“We’re looking to bring on more clients and bring on some more good people,” he said. “We’re on the trail of a couple or more as we speak.”
Breaux and Lott formed their own boutique firm, Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, after leaving Congress, and quickly built one of the most successful practices in Washington. Patton Boggs bought the boutique firm in 2010.
Speculation swirled earlier this year that Breaux and Lott might strike out on their own again after the merger deal, especially since the contract that they negotiated in 2010 is set to expire next year. But both men insist they’re staying put.
“Trent and I have a large list of clients that we had from the Breaux-Lott days, that are still with us, of course,” Breaux said. “And now we have the opportunity to be able to tell these clients that we’ve had, that not only can we do lobbying work on the Hill, but now we can do transactional work anywhere in the world for them.”
Breaux said they’re also working to bring Squire’s legal clients — especially its multinational ones — into the lobbying realm.
“One of the things we’re going to be involved in a little bit is trying to explain to lawyers and companies, like in London, what does public policy do in America, because a lot of them don’t understand the importance of it,” Lott said.
One of the challenges in courting foreign clients is convincing them that lobbying in the United States is not a shady business that they should steer clear of.
“That’s the challenge, to really let these foreign clients know that they need to be involved and that it’s not a bad thing,” Breaux said. “I think that some foreign entities think that, well, lobbying is not really something you’re supposed to do. Of course, that’s not the situation in the U.S.”
“If you’re going to do business in the U.S., presenting your case effectively, honestly, directly to the U.S. Congress is something that is expected of a company,” he said.
The lobbying industry has seen a decline in recent years, stemming in large part from a ban on earmarks and overall gridlock in Congress. Breaux and Lott have been in the thick of it.
They left the Senate almost a decade ago — in 2005 and 2007, respectively — but still maintain strong ties to other lawmakers.
They also recall, fondly, the combative rapport they had with each other while serving together in the House and then in the Senate, where Breaux would band together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to challenge Lott as Senate majority leader.
In the Senate, “You don’t need 51 [votes from one party], you could get a centrist group of five Republicans and five Democrats, and if they would stick together on a position on any issue, nobody could pass anything without them,” Breaux said.
Lott shot back, “That turkey did the exact same thing to me and to [former Senate Majority Leader] Tom Daschle [D-S.D.].”
“When we were 50-50, he had [former Maine Republican Sen.] Olympia Snowe and a half a dozen other Democrats and Republicans that they even got us in such a box that Tom and I had to come together to address this little runt group who held the balance of power in their hands.”
While both former lawmakers lament the disappearance of centrism in politics, they are hopeful that it could someday make a comeback.
Breaux said that he has been in contact with some Democrats in the Senate who know the “key to success” is coming together with Republicans on some policy issues.
“There’s a very strong growing interest in them [for]… the next Congress, and even starting to talk after this election, regardless of what happens in the election, of them banding together to try and have a greater influence in policy,” he said.
Lott added: “In our business, you take things as they are, not as you would like them to be.”