Business & Lobbying

Ex-Rep. Gerlach ditches K St. in return to campaign world

Former Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) will take the helm of an organization aimed at getting more businesses and their employees involved in elections later this year.

He’s leaving his K Street gig at Venable after only six months to become the president and CEO of the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), the organization announced on Thursday.

Former Senate Sergeant at Arms Gregory Casey, the organization’s outgoing leader, announced in December his intention to retire this year. He had led the organization since 1999. Executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International quickly got to work to find a replacement.

{mosads}BIPAC, a campaign vehicle made up of 7,300 businesses and industry groups, raises money to give to candidates while encouraging employers to engage with their employees about the policies that affect their workplaces.

“The position at BIPAC combines really what I’ve been doing over the last 24 years — combining policy, politics and team-leading,” he told The Hill. “The opportunity came along and I couldn’t let it pass by.”

The former Pennsylvania lawmaker retired from Congress at the end of last year after serving for six terms. He also worked in the Pennsylvania legislature for more than a decade. Most recently, Gerlach served on the congressional tax-writing panel, but also sat on transportation, financial services and small-business committees throughout his career.

“As a candidate for public office, early in my career, BIPAC provided me — personally — and my campaign with tremendous value as I transitioned from a state legislator to a U.S. Congressman,” Gerlach said in a statement. “I look forward to joining BIPAC and assisting its members and partners in advancing their political, public policy, and business objectives.”

“This is a critical point in time for the business community as Congress considers a range of important issues and I could not be more excited to help lead the effort to advance the interests of America’s job creators,” he said.

The political action committee has raised about $22,000 so far in the two-year 2016 election cycle.

During its most lucrative cycle, the 2012 presidential race, the organization took in about $476,000 and doled out $219,000 to candidates.

While BIPAC is mostly focused on voter education and encouraging people to become more involved in elections, donations to business friendly candidates boost its influence.

Gerlach anticipates upping the money ante in election cycles going forward, he told The Hill. Once he takes the reins on June 22, strategic meetings involving goals and a vision for the PAC’s future will begin.

“2016 is a huge election year,” he said. “This organization is going to move forward and it’s going to grow and it’s going to continue to have an important role in the process.”

“From state houses to the U.S. Senate, the business community helped to educate and motivate voters that will translate into stronger and more effective governance in the weeks and months ahead,” Casey said in a December statement. “The key now will be to sustain these victories heading into 2016. Our team is already hard at work to strengthen our products and technologies, based on our members’ feedback, and BIPAC looks forward to unveiling them next year.”

“Gerlach’s expertise in free market based public policies that create jobs and promote economic prosperity, combined with his trusted expertise in state and federal governments will drive additional value to our Prosperity Project network of partners and members spanning all 50 states,” said former Rep. Tom Tauke (R-Iowa), now a board member at BIPAC.

The Prosperity Project, the PAC says, is “one of the nation’s most expansive grassroots and political operations that promotes and empowers employer-to-employee advocacy best practices.”  

“BIPAC helps employers small and large play a more active role in the public policy-making process,” Tauke said.

Rob Smith, the co-chairman of Venable’s legislative and government affairs advocacy team, said the split is happening on good terms.

“Jim will be extremely effective with BIPAC’s corporate and association members and its vast network of state and local business partners throughout America,” he said in a statement.

Said Gerlach, “Venable is a great law firm with great attorneys, and I will continue to have a good relationship with them.” 

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