After a six-month hiatus of not having a lobbyist representing the city in Harrisburg, Mayor Kenney selected Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney to do the job.
The contract, which became effective Wednesday and goes through June 30, is worth $41,667. Buchanan and its subcontractor, Commonwealth Strategies, get three one-year renewal options.
It’s been a longtime coming for Buchanan to get the coveted contract.
Buchanan initial proposal to represent the city almost went up in flames in July when its first subcontractor, Melonease Shaw, was charged by the state for misusing welfare grants. A judge threw out the case in October but by then Buchanan had found a new partner.
On Aug. 22, Buchanan filed a new proposal to represent the city. It listed Lisa Crutchfield, former Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president of advocacy and public affairs, as a subcontractor. Crutchfield said last week that she told Buchanan in the fall that she “couldn’t remain on the contract.” She declined to explain why.
Buchanan most recently partnered with Melissa Heller, founder and CEO of Commonwealth Strategies, a home-based lobbying firm in Merion. The duo landed the contract, which became effective on Wednesday.
“They were selected because of their record of representing other large groups and municipal interests that intersect with Philadelphia’s, including, PCVB, PECO, University of Pennsylvania, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Allegheny County Bar Association, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority, WaWa and Equality Pennsylvania,” city spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said.
Eight other firms applied for the job, which for the last several years was held by Holly Kinser.
Philadelphia’s team at Buchanan will be Leslie Gromis Baker, John Bane, Lauren Orazi, and Mollie McEnteer.
Baker, co-chair of the state and federal government relations division at Buchanan, contributed $1,000 to Kenney’s mayoral campaign in 2015.
McEnteer, who has donated more than $3,000 to his campaigns in the last eight years, will be the city’s daily liaison in Philadelphia.
As a firm, Buchanan donated $7,900 to Kenney’s mayoral campaign.
Melissa Heller, the subcontractor, donated $2,900 to Kenney’s campaign in 2015. Heller’s live-in partner, Al Mezzaroba, former president of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, also donated $2,900 to Kenney during the 2015 campaign and in July, gave $3,000 to the mayor’s campaign fund. (Current campaign finance limits are $3,000 for individuals and $11,900 for firms and PACs.
Asked if the donations had any influence in the selection, Hitt said “No, as evidenced by the fact that another applicant gave several thousand more.” Hitt was referring to Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel, LLP, which has given the Kenney campaign $11,000 since 2015. (Obermayer has a few contracts with the city.)
The next closest of the applicants when it came to donations was Cozen O’Connor, which gave the Kenney campaign $7,100 in 2015, plus the firm’s chairman Stephen Cozen also gave the campaign $2,900. (Cozen also has a contract with the city.)
The other applicants included smaller firms, one of whom made several small donations totaling $1,050, another who donated $250 and the rest have not donated any money to Kenney's campaign. Of those smaller firms, only Bellevue Strategies, which donated $250, has a current contract with the city.
For the work Buchanan and Commonwealth Strategies will do in the next five months, Buchanan will receive $31,250 and Commonwealth $10,416.
The city will also be issuing another Request for Proposal for a second state lobbyist “to focus on Republican leadership,” Hitt said. She added that they city wants to increase its minority-owned participation rate for the second contract.
“We found during the process this year that there were a limited number of certified minority firms in our registry, but OEO has been working on outreach to increase the pool,” she said.
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