Updated 4:47 p.m.
In a move intended to bolster the organization's influence with congressional Republicans, the American Civil Liberties Union has hired LeClairRyan partner and former federal prosecutor Michael Volkov to lobby on a range of issues.
Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, said Volkov, a Republican, will promote the organization's stance on the Voting Rights Act, the National Defense Authorization Act and criminal justice issues including mandatory minimum sentences and prison overcrowding.
The ACLU is "absolutely" looking to harness increasing popular support for libertarian and conservative ideas about the limits of government and individual rights to privacy in advancing its mission, Murphy said. In the past, the organization has been criticized from both sides of the aisle for stances it has taken on various issues—a result Murphy pinned on its nonpartisan approach.
"I think a lot of people are ill-informed or misinformed about how well we navigate working with the two parties," Murphy said. "We can't emphasize enough that the Constitution is for the 100 percent."
"If you're in the business of defending civil liberties, you can't do it with partisan blinders," she added.
By phone Thursday, Volkov said he is looking forward to the "opportunity to work with them [the ACLU] to build bipartisan bridges." He said that many of the organization's stances receive support from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers but for different reasons, which leads to stalemates.
Volkov pointed to the United States' incarceration rate, which is the highest in the world. While Democrats and Republicans both want to lower this number, those from the left emphasize civil rights while GOP lawmakers might be swayed by a focus on spending.
How each side attempts to solve an issue may be substantially different, he said, "but if we both see it as a good solution, let's try to work together."
Volkov's focus for the organization on the criminal justice system is right up his alley. According to congressional records, he has lobbied for two separate companies in related industries: a forensic laboratory that offers DNA analysis and a government subsidiary that employs inmates to produce goods and services for sale to federal agencies.
Murphy said that Volkov is also no stranger to the ACLU, having worked with the organization during his tenure from 2005 to 2008 as chief counsel to the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. She said that she "came to respect his integrity work ethic," characterizing Volkov as a "Republican with a libertarian heart."
Volkov moved to LeClairRyan earlier this month from Mayer Brown and is author of the blog Corruption, Crime and Compliance.