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Government & Politics

Prominent Republicans Opening Annapolis Lobbying Shop (and Want a Democrat to Join Them)

John M. Kane, left, a former state GOP chair, is opening an Annapolis public affairs firm. Facebook photo

A former chairman the Maryland Republican Party and the architect of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s first campaign are among the players in a new Annapolis-based government relations firm.

Aton Strategies bills itself as a “full-service, bipartisan advisory firm that provides extensive local, state, and federal government relations experience combined with wide-ranging business, legal, and financial expertise …”

The company’s name derives from Aid to Navigation, “a marker that guides mariners in determining their position or safest course on the open waters, or to warn them of dangers or obstructions ahead,” according to the firm’s website.

In an interview, John M. Kane, a businessman and former head of the state GOP, said he is still assembling the Aton team.

His partners include:

— Steve Crim, who managed Hogan’s first campaign for governor in 2014 and took a policy post in the State House after their victory;

— G. Michael DuFour, a registered lobbyist and real estate attorney; and

— R. Christopher Rosenthal, an adviser and business valuations expert who is the campaign treasurer for both Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and the Maryland Republican Party.

“I looked at the marketplace and realized that there was a record number of new legislators elected [in the last election] — and a lot of new leaders,” Kane said.

By the time the next legislative session rolls around, Kane said, “I’m going to know each of the new legislators, because I’ve been to their districts and I’ve been to their events.”

Annapolis is already chock-full of established, big-name lobbyists, a few who are bolder face names — and significantly wealthier — than the elected officials they’re paid to influence.

Does the town really need another governor relations firm?

“There’s a lot of coalition-building with firms now,” Kane said. “I don’t see the other firms as competition; I see them as potential partners.”

Aton Strategies LLC has rented space at 201 Defense Highway in Annapolis, but Kane’s goal is to be on State Circle within a year.

“You have to live among the community,” he said.

All four of the partners who have committed to the firm so far are Republicans, but Kane insists he won’t stop recruiting until he finds a Democrat. He had to cut short an interview with a reporter Tuesday to grab an early dinner with someone he described as a “prominent former Democratic official.”

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Prominent Republicans Opening Annapolis Lobbying Shop (and Want a Democrat to Join Them)