February 15, 2007

Two of the most experienced Democratic tax lobbyists in Washington have joined forces with a team of Democratic fundraisers and operatives to form what likely will emerge as one of Washington’s premier boutique lobbying shops.

The firm, Capitol Counsel LLC, will focus almost exclusively on two of the most powerful committees in Congress: the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance panels. At least that is the initial strategy — the company may follow clients’ interests to other committees or to the House and Senate Democratic leadership.

The venture is the brainchild of John Raffaelli, a tax lobbyist for more than two decades and founder of the Washington Group, which he helped build into one of the top 20 highest-grossing lobbying firms in town. Raffaelli sold his stake and left Washington Group at the end of last year because he wanted to focus on what he called his love, “lobbying on tax legislation,” instead of management.

Raffaelli now has formed a partnership with a lobbyist at Capitol Tax Partners LLP and longtime friend, James Gould, and two Democrats with strong ties to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). They are Shannon Finley, who just ended her service as Baucus’s political director, and David Jones, who spent five years working as a fundraiser for Baucus and more than 10 years raising money for Rangel.

“It was just a group of friends who all found themselves at a particular point able to get together and form a firm,” Raffaelli said.

Clearly, Democrats winning control of the Senate and House in November provided significant incentive for Raffaelli, Gould, Finley and Jones to team up.

“This wouldn’t have happened without the election,” Jones said.

Nevertheless, Raffaelli emphasized that bipartisanship would be a guiding principle of the firm, noting that many of the tax- and business-related issues that arise in Congress more
often break down along regional rather than partisan lines.

“The whole reason I put together this group of tax-type people was not just because of their strong substantive backgrounds, but because they had real experience working in a bipartisan fashion,” he said. “The Democrat who knows how to work with Republicans is a unique combination.”