By Kevin Bogardus - 03/14/12 09:00 AM EDT
GolinHarris is getting out of the lobbying business.
The public-affairs firm is shifting its lobbying work over to Cassidy & Associates, a sister company likewise owned by the Interpublic Group.
GolinHarris filed termination reports for at least 10 different companies, schools and associations last quarter, apparently wiping its lobbying client roster clean, according to disclosure records.
Susan Corscini, a managing director at GolinHarris, said 2011 was a great year for the firm, but clients wanted a different kind of lobbying.
“Our public-affairs, consumer and social-marketing practices all experienced growth over the years and, in fact, 2011 marked the most successful year for GolinHarris’s D.C. office,” she said. “However, over those same years, we saw a marked change in the types of governmental-affairs services our clients desired.”
She said the firm felt Cassidy, one of K Street’s biggest earners, was better equipped to meet clients’ lobbying needs.
“When our lobbyist left in January, we made a strategic business decision to offer lobbying and other [government-relations] services through our sister agency Cassidy & Associates,” she said. “As one of Washington, D.C.’s leading full-service federal government-relations firms, we feel collaborating with Cassidy will better meet the needs of our clients.”
GolinHarris earned almost $1.1 million in lobbying fees for 2011, according to lobbying disclosure records. That’s a significant decline from 2010, when the firm earned $2.1 million in lobbying revenue.
A Cassidy spokesman confirmed that the firm will be collaborating with GolinHarris on lobbying work and referred other questions to that firm.
Senior staff members at GolinHarris have left to work elsewhere.
Mike Fulton, once head of GolinHarris’s government-relations practice, has opened up a Washington office for the Arnold Agency, a West Virginia ad firm. Another senior GolinHarris executive, Lane Bailey, left in November 2011 and founded his own firm, Advocom Group. And Kathryn Seck, a former lobbyist at GolinHarris, now works at public-relations giant Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.
Some of GolinHarris’s former lobbying clients have gone with them.
Fulton on Monday said four clients — the National Insulation Association, Northampton Community College, Southeast Missouri State University and Education is Freedom, a Dallas-based nonprofit — would be following him from GolinHarris to Arnold.
Fulton declined to comment when asked about GolinHarris’s lobbying terminations.
Bailey said he plans to register to lobby for a number of clients at Advocom, including T-Mobile, for which he worked while at GolinHarris.
Tony Russo, T-Mobile’s vice president of federal legislative affairs, said sticking with Bailey made sense.
“He has started his own strategy group, and we just transferred to that,” Russo said. “In reality, nothing has changed in terms of who we are using.”
Bailey said GolinHarris might have decided it no longer wishes to lobby, but its core business has always been public affairs.
“They may have made a specific strategic decision to get out of the lobbying business, but that shouldn’t be confused with the core part of the business, which is public affairs,” Bailey said. “As to the why and the reasoning, you will have to speak to the agency about that.”
Asked why he left, Bailey said he wanted to start his own firm.
“I left because I fully intended to start my own shop for a very long time. That opportunity came along in 2011,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he is still under contract with GolinHarris to counsel clients with which he had a relationship while he was at that firm. He said he does public-affairs work for these clients, but does not lobby for them.
Seck said she left GolinHarris because joining her new firm was an appealing opportunity.
“I came to Waggener Edstrom because it was a great opportunity to work with leading brands in their public-affairs practice, which includes dynamic organizations in the technology, energy and sustainability spaces,” Seck said.
Some former lobbying clients of GolinHarris are shifting gears to find new K Street representation.
“We put [GolinHarris’s government-relations] work up for rebid last fall and we are currently still in the middle of that process,” said Laura Reimers, vice president of communications for the National Industries for the Blind.
Other clients that GolinHarris filed termination reports for last quarter are Dow Chemical Co., the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Waters Corp.