Arent Fox has brought on former U.S. senators Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) as senior policy advisers in the firm’s government relations practice.
Dorgan will serve as co-chair of the government relations practice alongside former Rep. Phil English (R-Penn.), who joined the firm in 2009. Bennett will divide his time between Washington and Los Angeles, focusing on international clients.
In a prepared statement, Mark Katz, chairman of Arent Fox, said, “We are extraordinarily pleased to start the year with senators Bennett and Dorgan at Arent Fox. They bring a remarkable amount of leadership, knowledge and experience in key policy areas including taxes, energy, financial services, and trade. They will add a tremendous amount of proven strategic, policy and business expertise that is important to our clients and our law firm.”
The two former senators will also be doing some work outside of the firm. Bennett has launched The Bennett Consulting Group with offices in Washington, Salt Lake City, Utah and Shanghai. The Bennett Consulting Group will offer a variety of strategic and advisory services to businesses, according to a news release from Arent Fox.
Dorgan will be chairing a new program at the Aspen Institute, working with the Bipartisan Policy Center on Energy issues. He also plans to serve as a visiting professor at Georgetown University.
Bennett, who was elected to the Senate in 1992, made an unsuccessful reelection bid in November in a highly competitive election. Bennett was challenged by seven other Republicans and two Democrats. He finished third to Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater at the Utah Republican Convention. Lee went on to win the election.
Dorgan, who also joined the Senate in 1992, announced on Jan. 5, 2010, that he would be retiring and not seeking a fourth term. His seat went to former North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican.
In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Bennett and Dorgan fleshed out their plans for their entrée into the world of Big Law. Though neither man is a lawyer, they said that their congressional experience as well as their time in business before running for the Senate will provide clients with "a great deal of value."
Bennett, who officially joined Arent Fox on Jan. 3, said that while he is not going to miss the "political games" that occur in Congress, he said he would "definitely miss the policy decisions." That was what motivated him to think about joining a law firm, he said.
"This will be an opportunity to continue to be involved in the process, and I am thrilled about having the opportunity to interact with clients," he said.
Bennett said that he and the management team at Arent Fox discussed the relationship between the firm and the consulting business he will run concurrently before he joined Arent Fox. He said that the relationship will be constructed in a way that "ensures there aren't any conflicts." He added, "There will also be times when the companies I am advising on business strategies are going to need lawyers, and I'll be able to say, 'Well, I know just the firm."
Dorgan said that he and Bennett, who served together on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, didn't plan to join the firm together. It just happened to work out that way, he said. Dorgan joined Arent Fox this week.
Now that the two men are at the firm, Dorgan said they will advise clients in the energy, telecommunications, health care, environmental and other industries on how to navigate Congress. Both men said they have no plans to register as lobbyists.
"This is a very challenging time for both the public and private sector," Dorgan said. "We hope that our ability to advise clients on how to think about approaching members of Congress and their staffs will be very helpful. Often businesses need to be told how to do that, but just as often they need to be told that the timing isn't right for what they want to accomplish. We'll be able to help them decide."
The two former senators also touched upon the recent shooting in Tuscon, Ariz. and whether they thought it might have been prompted by the heated rhetoric coming off the Hill. Calling the shooting a "great tragedy" Dorgan said, "The rhetoric of politics needs to be respectful , no matter which side you're on because there are people out there who can become inflamed."
Both men said they had received threats during their time in the Senate.
That said, Dorgan said he didn't see the shooting having a longterm effect on how politicians speak about issues. "Often after tragedies of this sort, you see some changes. But after a year or two, you don't really see an impact any more."
Bennett largely agreed, though he did say that politicians might think twice about holding face-to-face constituent meetings, opting instead to hold telephonic town-hall meetings. But he said that will likely be driven more by "efficiency" rather than fear. Bennett said, "You can just reach so many more people that way. And you can screen the calls."