New leadership coming to McGuireWoods Consulting

McGuireWoods Consulting is marking its 20th anniversary with a change in leadership, the firm plans to announce on Monday. 

Former South Carolina Gov. James Hodges (D) and Democratic campaign operative Mark Bowles are taking over top roles at the firm, the lobbying arm of law firm McGuireWoods.

Hodges is taking over as chief executive — succeeding former Rep. L.F. Payne (D-Va.) — and Bowles is taking over as chairman, a position held by Frank Atkinson. (Payne and Atkinson are remaining at the firm as senior advisors.)

The transition will be complete next January, the firm says, which coincides with its 20-year anniversary.

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The public affairs firm was founded in 1998 in Richmond, Va., and has gone from four full-time employees to 118 in its various offices. 

Bowles, who is based in Richmond, has been with the firm since it opened its doors. He and Hodges both say they’ll be spending more time in Washington.

The growth of the firm in headcount has been accompanied by an expansion of services, which the new leadership says is crucial for standing out in the influence world.

McGuireWoods Consulting earns around $5.5 million in lobbying fees each year, but its leadership emphasizes that it does plenty of work that is not captured by federal lobbying disclosure rules, including grassroots and grasstops advocacy — which mobilize individuals for a cause — strategic communications and digital media.

Hodges says the firm aims to grow in the other areas in advocacy that aren't traditional shoe-leather lobbying, a growing trend on K Street. 

“McGuireWoods Consulting works because it’s a one-stop-shop for clients that have complex legal needs, government advocacy and communications needs, and state and federal lobbying needs,” said Bowles, who manages all of the firm’s state capital offices and state practice groups.

Its clients on the federal level include Smithfield Foods, Exxon Mobile and Altria. It recently signed on several new clients, including Verizon, Securities Industry Financial Services Association and Inovio Pharmaceuticals.

The firm is also active in state-level work, and has offices in six states and Washington, D.C. — including Chicago, Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., and Austin, Texas. 

“State governments play a more important role than ever. Clients recognize that, and we certainly recognize that,” said Hodges, mentioning the likelihood that Republicans in charge of government will likely delegate more responsibility to the states. He often works with clients who have matters before groups including the National Governor's Association, the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

McGuireWoods Consulting is also international, with an office in Brussels and another in Bucharest, Romania. (It helped lobby to get Romania accepted into NATO.)

Frank Donatelli leads the Washington office of McGuireWoods Consulting, and will continue holding that role.

As part of the leadership change, though, Lee Lilley is being promoted to deputy practice group leader of the federal public affairs group in Washington, in addition to serving as a director of federal strategic growth initiatives. 

Donatelli has been in charge of the federal practice since 2001, and on a phone call with Bowles and Hodges, joked that he was a “sane Republican” speaking to The Hill alongside “two crazy left-wing Democrats.”

He’s a Reagan White House alum with experience working alongside the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Lindsey Graham: 'Graham wants to bring back 1950s McCarthyism' Meghan McCain knocks Lindsey Graham for defending Trump's tweets: 'This is not the person I used to know' MORE (R-Ariz.), former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and President George H.W. Bush. 

Despite laughing about their respective partisanship, the firm’s leadership has made a point to be fiercely bipartisan.

“You can’t get anything done in Washington unless you’re bipartisan, and [partisanship has been] a greater challenge as time goes on,” Donatelli said. 

“That’s what we always say to our clients: ‘You should never have to worry about who wins the next election. If you have McGuireWoods, you’re covered,’” he added.

McGuireWoods has also drifted from being a small firm of generalists into a more expansive one with defined policy expertise — including in healthcare, energy, transportation and tax policy. 

The firm has a number of prominent hires in recent months, including Harold Hancock, who served as Republican counsel for the House tax-writing committee. 

It also recently brought on Robert Wasinger, who held a senior role in the Trump presidential campaign and as part of the transition team.

Wasinger spent about 16 years in the office of former Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas while on Capitol Hill, including as chief of staff. (Brownback is now the state’s governor.) 

He worked with another Brownback staffer, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump MORE (R-Wis.), which puts him in a position to work with Republican leadership on the Hill and in the White House. 

During the presidential race, Wasinger managed the Trump campaign’s outreach to the Senate and governors nationwide. After the election, he helped with the State Department transition, acting as the White House liaison to the department.

Both the top Democrats and top Republicans at the firm all believe that Congress will act on top issues like tax reform and healthcare, in spite some initial setbacks.

Particularly, talk of a GOP civil war in the wake of the' failure to agree on how to repeal ObamaCare and overhaul the healthcare system is overblown, Wasinger says.

“It’s a false flag that there’s a huge conflict going on,” he said in a telephone interview. “Everyone is on the same page about moving the ball down the field, it’s just about details.”

“Both parties have the same problems, but that doesn’t mean they’re not committed to getting things done,” he added.