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Rating:GOP Mission Accomplished at the ICI? Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, August 25, 2004

GOP Mission Accomplished at the ICI?

Reported by Theresa Sim

A little more than one year after the Washington Post initially reported a GOP plot to push out Julie Domenick, the ICI's longstanding top lobbyist, Domenick has left to join a D.C. firm.

And it looks like the Republicans ultimately got what they wanted. Republican Daniel Crowley, who was hired to work with Domenick, took over Domenick's lobbying responsibilities at the ICI in May of 2004.

The Domenick controversy started in February 2003, when the Washington Post published the first of a series of articles about Representative Michael Oxley's (R, Ohio) efforts to replace Domenick. Oxley reportedly wanted to swap Domenick, a Democrat and one of the top lobbyists on the Hill, with a member of his own party. What would the ICI get for complying? The Post alleged that Oxley promised he would go easy on the fund industry.

The effort was reportedly part of a well-known strategy called the "K Street Project." The project, according to the Post, is the name for a system that top Republican lawmakers and officials use to track the party affiliation of lobbyists (many of whom have offices in Washington, D.C.'s K Street). The goal of the project is pressure trade groups to award lobbying jobs to Republicans.

At that time, the Post reported that "several lobbyists of both political parties said Oxley and his associates have sent an unmistakable message that Domenick must go and that if she does, the [ICI] will have greater congressional access and the industry might receive less scrutiny."

The Post then reported that two of Oxley's aides let industry officials know that the House's inquiry into mutual funds was "linked to the ICI's strong ties to Democrats."

In May of 2003, the ICI seemed to buckle under the K Street Project pressure when it hired Crowley to work with Domenick.

But with the departure of Domenick for Loeffler Jonas & Tuggey, a law firm headed up by retired Republican congressman Thomas Loeffler, Crowley was appointed chief government affairs officer.

Domenick cited growth opportunities for the job change: "[j]oining Loeffler Jonas & Tuggey is an exceptional opportunity for me. I am very excited about helping to lead its Washington expansion and especially about working with Tom Loeffler, a respected leader, long time friend and colleague," stated Domenick.

"As a client of the firm, I became a great admirer of Tom Loeffler and his colleagues…I see tremendous opportunities to contribute to further growth of the firm," she stated.

Loeffler, in turn, denied that politics played a part in their hiring of Domenick: "[Loeffler] was attracted by [Domenick's] talent and her capability, and that was the sole criteria…[i]f [her Democratic affiliation] turns out to be an advantage, I’m sure that's a plus," Loeffler spokesman Julian Read told the Post.

ICI spokesman John Collins declined to comment on the Post's coverage of the matter, but did say that Crowley was "irresistibly drawn" to the Loeffler job offer.

Paradoxically, the Post reported in early July that Domenick's appointment at Loeffler -- as a Democrat hired to work at a firm headed by a prominent Republican -- represented a challenge to success of the K Street Project. But with Domenick's departure, a Republican is now the head of the ICI's lobbying efforts.

If Oxley truly worked to oust Domenick, his behavior up to the time of Domenick's departure from the ICI in May is consistent with the "threat" of the K Street Project -- Oxley has consistently been a thorn in the fund industry's side and a supporter of various fund reform proposals, although not as outspoken as some of his other Democratic and Republican colleagues.

Among other endeavors, Oxley, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, sponsored the Mutual Funds Integrity and Fee Transparency Act of 2003. He also penned a letter to the SEC supporting the agency's proposal to require an independent chairman of the board of directors.

Will Republican representation for the ICI result in kinder, gentler treatment for the fund industry? Perhaps that question should be asked of Oxley. 

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