Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich started on Monday as a senior counsel in King & Spalding's Washington office, adding a significant new public face to the law firm's government advocacy and public policy practice.
The move is a return to the nation's capital for Ehrlich, who spent eight years in Congress before he was elected governor in 2002. A Republican, he served a term as governor before losing to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in the typically Democratic state. O’Malley won their rematch last year.
Ehrlich said in an interview that he’s eager to spend more time in Washington, and he’s looking to raise his profile. He hopes to expand the Saturday-morning radio show he hosts with his wife, Kendel, to more markets, and he’s talking to agents about publishing a book he’s written that he calls a blueprint for the Republican Party.
“I have a lot of friends in this town,” Ehrlich said. He won election to Congress in the 1994 Republican wave, and he served six years as a deputy whip in the Republicans’ House majority. “A lot of my former colleagues are in positions of leadership in the House and the Senate. It’s a very comfortable town for me.”
Ehrlich said he plans to build relationships with King & Spalding’s current clients, as well as “create more client relationships with the firm from my world.” He said he plans to do “very little if any lobbying.” The firm was registered to lobby on behalf of about 30 companies and groups, including defense contractor Raytheon Co., in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to Senate records.
King & Spalding’s congressional investigations practice, led by partner Theodore Hester, has had several high-profile clients, including Toyota during its 2009-2010 recalls. Ehrlich said he expects to work with Hester on some matters.
In joining Atlanta-based King & Spalding, Ehrlich is departing another firm, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, based in Winston-Salem, N.C. After leaving office, Ehrlich and a group of his former aides founded Womble’s Baltimore office. He stayed until he ran for governor again last year, when he took a leave of absence. He said he considered returning but felt the pull of Washington, where Womble does not have as large a presence.
The move is partly the result of personal relationships. Ehrlich has known J. Sedwick “Wick” Sollers, the managing partner of King & Spalding’s Washington office, since they were in high school, and the two overlapped at Princeton. Sollers encouraged Ehrlich to consider the firm.
“When I first came here, I just had an instant comfort level, with the people, with the environment, with the culture,” Ehrlich said. He said he considered “six or seven firms in a pretty serious way” before settling on one.
As for another campaign, Ehrlich said he’s not interested in running himself. “Elective politics in Maryland is the last thing on my mind,” he said. But, he added, he expects to support a candidate for president. He wouldn’t say which one.
In a separate move announced Monday, Steptoe & Johnson added to its government affairs and public policy practice. Elizabeth Burks, former chief of staff to then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), has joined the firm as the managing director of that practice.