Editor’s note: This story was updated to name Holland & Knight as one of MARTA’s lobbyists at the state and local levels.
By David Pendered
MARTA is shopping for a federal lobbying team that is to work with the Trump administration. The question is whether MARTA is inclined to replace the firm it’s had on Capitol Hill since the Obama adminstration.
MARTA has retained the Washington office of Holland & Knight since 2009, when MARTA replaced Edington, Peel & Assoc.
MARTA paid each firm about $40,000 a quarter, according to records maintained by the clerk to the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of the Senate.
MARTA has issued a request for proposals from companies interested in vying for the contract. Responses are due to MARTA by March 12.
MARTA’s federal lobbyists are separate from the team MARTA retains to represent the agency at the Georgia General Assembly and local governments.
State records show MARTA’s local team is comprised of several lobbyists, including Robert Highsmith, of Holland & Knight’s Atlanta office, who is MARTA’s outside general counsel and a top advisor to Republicans; Linda Hamrick, a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party; and the firm Georgia Link, which is considered to field one of the more influential teams at the state Capitol.
In Washington, Holland & Knight touts its bipartisan relations, according to a report on its website:
- “Our attorneys and professionals have long established relationships with congressional Republicans and Democrats, as well as with the Trump Administration, and we are prepared to help move important legislation through to completion.”
The Holland & Knight team that represents MARTA is comprised of three members who have past affiliations with Democratic officials. Relations with Republicans are not specifically mentioned.
Rich Gold leads the team. Gold ranks among Washington’s leading lobbyist/lawyers, according to a number of citations on his page on the firm’s website. Highlights include:
- The Best Lawyers in America guide, Government Relations Practice, 2008-2018;
- Top Lobbyist – Hired Guns, The Hill, 2011-2017;
- Chambers USA – America’s Leading Business Lawyers guide, Government: Government Relations, 2007-2017.
Gold’s corporate biography observes:
- “Mr. Gold served in the U.S. Senate for Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) as his advisor on environmental affairs where he worked on issues related to environmental side agreements of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). During the Clinton administration, he was a special assistant to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner, with whom he helped develop the EPA’s Superfund reform proposal and its administrative improvements package. Mr. Gold also served as a career lawyer in the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and Office of General Counsel, working on major rulemakings as well as significant Superfund cases.”
Shawna Francis Watley serves as a senior policy advisor with Holland & Knight. Watley’s biography cites her experience with Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus. According to the statement:
- “She has cultivated working relationships on the federal, state and local levels of government. This includes professional relationships with the Obama administration, leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate, moderate Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus. …
“As the primary point of contact with members of Congress, Ms. Watley has extensive working relationships with moderate Democratic senators and representatives, as well as senior staff. As a former legislative assistant to Sen. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.), she gained a keen understanding of the workings of Congress.”
Tanvi Purohit serves as the third member of the Holland & Knight team representing MARTA before Congress. Purohit is listed as a legislative assistant and the federal lobbyist report shows she joined the team in the third quarter of 2017.
Purohit’s biography observes:
- “She builds regulatory and legislative solutions for clients primarily in the local government, transportation and healthcare industries.
- “While attending American University, Ms. Purohit worked in the school’s Justice Programs Office as a research assistant. She also worked at the Women’s Environment & Development Organization, a global women’s environmental advocacy organization based in New York.
- “Ms. Purohit also gained legislative experience working for former Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) where she worked on special projects for re-election campaigns and drafted briefings on current legislative issues.”