Top Annapolis Lobbying Firm Rocked by Defections

A leading Annapolis lobbying firm has been stunned by significant high-profile defections. The full extent of the defections – and the reasons for them – could not be immediately determined Tuesday night. But the situation could turn acrimonious. In a statement provided late Tuesday to Maryland Matters, the leaders of Alexander & Cleaver, a top-earning law and lobbying firm with an office on State Circle and in strategic locations across the state, confirmed that they learned earlier in the day, “without any prior notice or discussion, that some of our government relations employees may be leaving.” In a brief conference call with Maryland Matters, neither Gary R. Alexander nor James A. Cleaver, the firm’s partners, would identify the lobbyists who are leaving. They said they were informed of the departures in an email Tuesday and were not given an explanation.  Robert J. Garagiola  “We’re still checking around, to be honest with you,” Alexander said. Multiple sources said at least three lobbyists are expected to leave the firm: Robert J. Garagiola, a former state Senate majority leader and unsuccessful congressional candidate; Hannah Powers Garagiola, a former top aide to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who preceded her husband at the firm; and Moira Moynihan, a former campaign operative and House Appropriations Committee staffer in Annapolis. Rob Garagiola did not respond to phone and email messages Tuesday. Hannah Garagiola did not respond to an email message. There is widespread speculation that the Garagiolas and others could be starting their own Annapolis lobbying shop – a situation that clearly has Alexander and Cleaver concerned. “Normally, in all past circumstances like this, we have always wished folks well in such decisions,” they said in their statement. “However, it has come to our attention that these employees are contacting some of our clients and soliciting them to break existing contracts with the firm. We have engaged legal counsel to investigate these actions.” The departures from Alexander & Cleaver is the latest development in the hyper-competitive world of State House lobbying. The firm was launched in 1985, by Alexander, then a high-ranking member of the House of Delegates, and Cleaver, who heads the firm’s personal injury practice. Today, Alexander & Cleaver offers a full range of legal services, from criminal defense to family law to zoning to procurement, and a robust lobbying practice. The firm has offices in a historic house in Annapolis – where Katherine Hepburn famously once spent the night – and in Fort Washington, Cumberland, La Plata, Rockville, Alexandria, Va., and West Palm Beach, Fla. Alexander & Cleaver has a long list of powerhouse lobbying clients in Annapolis, from American Water to Wawa, Inc.  Hannah Powers Garagiola  According to data compiled by the Maryland State Ethics Commission, Rob Garagiola was one of the highest-paid lobbyists in the state during the last reporting period, taking in $735,958 between Nov. 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018. Hannah Powers Garagiola earned $274,600, and Moynihan reported $68,118. Tyler Bennett, another member of A&C’s government affairs team, earned $103,687 during the six-month period. Isaac Meyer reporting earning $61,375 and Davion Percy earned $57,516. A potential spin-off from Alexander & Cleaver could be the biggest development in the Annapolis lobbying world since Cornerstone Government Affairs, a large national firm, opened a Maryland shop almost three years ago. But year after year, more money is being spent on State House lobbying — and more players are entering the game. [email protected]

Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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