The State House lobbying trade is being drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that may not make it any less desirable or remunerative. The roster of registered lobbyists grows every year ― and so do their earnings.
Add to the list of newly registered lobbyists former state Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), who finished his 21-year legislative career at the beginning of this year as chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Zirkin, whose one-year “cooling off period” for ex-legislators who want to become registered lobbyists ends on Jan. 3, has launched Zirkin & Schmerling Government Relations & Public Affairs with his law partner and former aide, Josh Schmerling.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Zirkin said in an interview. “I have not lost my passion for public policy. I just needed a break. This is going to help me stay involved.”
Zirkin announced his resignation from the Senate in late 2019, citing his desire to spend more time with his family following the death of his mother earlier in the year. After eight years in the House of Delegates, he had served in the Senate since 2007, becoming chairman of the powerful Judicial Proceedings Committee at the beginning of 2015.
Zirkin, who has represented professional athletes in his law practice, helping them establish nonprofit organizations or put together other philanthropic activities, said his initial clients are likely to be these same current and former athletes who are interested in using their high profiles to impact public policy.
“They have such an opportunity to do good things,” Zirkin said.
Zirkin said he would also begin to solicit “a couple of more traditional clients as well.”
Zirkin isn’t the only ex-lawmaker to start up a lobbying venture.
Recently, attorney William A. Kress and former state Del. Peter A. Hammen (D-Baltimore City), who joined forces as lobbyists last year, rebranded their lobbying firm Kress Hammen Public Affairs. The two have lobbied together since the fall of 2019 as part of The Capital Law Firm, which Kress headed.
Hammen, who served in the House of Delegates from 1995 to 2016, spent 11 years as chairman of the Health and Government Operations Committee before leaving to become a top aide to former Baltimore mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D). Kress is a veteran Anne Arundel County attorney and government affairs specialist.
Eleven other former state legislators are registered State House lobbyists, and at least three others are doing government affairs work for state agencies.
Meanwhile, there are other developments on the Annapolis lobbying front.
The firm Harris Jones Malone announced last week that attorney Caitlin E. McDonough, who has been with the firm for nine years, is being promoted and becoming a “member.” The announcement was made during a preview of the 2021 General Assembly session that the firm held for its clients.
“Her work ethic is unparalleled, and she is a premier lobbyist at both the state and local levels,” said the firm’s managing member and founder, Lisa Harris Jones.
McDonough worked for former state Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) before joining Harris Jones Malone. He praised McDonough’s promotion during the firm’s webinar last week.
“The fact that you’re elevating her to be a partner in your law firm is huge,” Miller said.
In other lobbying news, Eddie L. Pounds, a registered lobbyist with the firm O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore P.A., for the past six years, has jumped ship to Funk & Bolton, P.A., where he’s become a partner in the government relations practice. Pounds was previously an attorney with the Prince George’s County government for several years.