Romney aide mum on his corporate clients

Ex-senator Jim Talent is co-chair of a high-octane D.C. lobbying firm, but he hasn't disclosed who he works for

Topics: 2012 Elections, War Room,

Romney aide mum on his corporate clientsJim Talent and Mitt Romney

One of Mitt Romney’s top advisers is the co-chairman of a powerful Washington lobbying firm but the identities of the corporate clients he works for are shrouded in mystery.

Former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri has been acting as a Romney surrogate and adviser for months while also working at Mercury Public Affairs, a self-described “high-stakes public strategy firm” staffed by former members of Congress and Capitol Hill aides.

Mercury’s website says that “lobbying” is among the five “actions” offered by Talent in areas ranging from finance and tax policy to defense and health-care. But he has not registered as a lobbyist and thus avoids legal disclosure requirements about who he works for.

We do know that in the past few years Mercury lobbyists have worked for Visa; Advent Financial Services, a Missouri firm that competes with payday lenders in the low-income credit market; Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, also based in Missouri; the St. Louis investment bank Stifel Financial; HP Enterprise Services, a division of Hewlett Packard that has large contracts with the U.S. military; the Center for Responsible Lending, a group that combats predatory lending practices; private hospital operator Vanguard Health Services; and ethanol producer Algenol.

Among the Mercury employees working those accounts are two former Talent aides: former legislative assistant and campaign policy director Jesse Appleton and former legislative director Brett Thompson.

Talent and Mercury did not respond to requests for comment. So it’s not clear what sort of work Talent himself has been doing for Mercury.

Talent is not the only Romney aide doing corporate work on the side. Eric Ferhnstrom both advises Romney and does “strategic communications” for an unknown roster of companies through his Boston-based firm, Shawmut Group, Huffington Post recently reported. Ferhnstrom told HuffPo that the firm does not disclose clients as a matter of policy.

The involvement of lobbyists in his campaign has been an issue for Romney in the past. During his 2008 presidential bid, he had a famously prickly on-camera exchange with an Associated Press reporter who challenged Romney’s claim that “I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign.” (In fact, lobbyist Ron Kaufman was playing a prominent role as a top Romney adviser.)



Talent has a long history with Romney. In 2008, he was chairman of the Romney for President Domestic Policy Task Force. A military policy expert and advocate for expanding the defense budget, his name has even been floated as a possible Secretary of Defense in a future Romney administration. This cycle, he is taking on a similarly robust role, writing op-eds for Romney, accompanying him on a Mideast trip earlier this year, fund raising for him, and devoting virtually his entire Twitter feed to promoting Romney.

It’s also worth noting that Talent was a registered lobbyist for the law firm Arent Fox in 2001, during the brief period between his House and Senate careers. Shortly after losing his Senate reelection race in 2006, Talent joined Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations, which after a corporate reorganization became Mercury Public Affairs.

What category Talent fits into now — he’s not a registered lobbyist but Mercury says that he offers lobbying services — remains unclear.

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie

    A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie

    Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant

    A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Black Silk" by Judith Ivory

    A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale

    A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner

    A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ...   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen

    Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal

    A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

    Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time.   Read the whole essay.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>