‘Tri-partisan’ strategic alliance

W By Judy Sarasohn

wASHINGTON – First the buzzword was bipartisanship: Lobby shops and law firms with government affairs practices whose identities were too tied up with one political party recruited lobbyists of the other party. Now the thing to have is a strategic alliance.

A strategic alliance allows two or more lobby shops, law firms and public affairs groups to market themselves to potential clients while retaining their individual identities and operations. One such alliance was announced this week by Washington law firm Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman; its lobbying subsidiary, the Harbour Group; and the Alexander Strategy Group.

Swidler managing partner Barry Direnfeld, chairman of the firm’s government affairs practice, in a statement called the partnership “a tri-partisan alliance” that would help clients “navigate Washington’s constantly shifting legislative terrain.” The law firm, though it has a Democratic tinge, is the nonpartisan partner, while the Harbour Group is staunchly Democratic and the Alexander Strategy Group is staunchly Republican.

Harbour’s managing director is Joel Johnson, former President Bill Clinton’s senior adviser for policy and communications and the staff director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee under then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

The Alexander Strategy Group is headed by Ed Buckham, former chief of staff for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and former executive director of the Republican Study Committee. The group also includes Tony Rudy, another DeLay veteran.

“Neither of us wanted to dilute our political identity,” Johnson said. “We have every intention of continuing our partisan activities.”

“We’re both political warriors and respect each other,” Buckham said of Johnson. And they need each other. “You have to work both sides of the aisle,” Buckham said.

Johnson said they’re already working together on behalf of the U.S. Malaysia Exchange Association and the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council.

Direnfeld said the Alexander folks will be moving soon into offices near Swidler and the Harbour Group.