Sat October 6, 2012
Charlotte To Renew $200K Contract For D.C. Lobbyists
The City of Charlotte is set to renew its contract with D.C. lobbying firm Holland and Knight Holland and Knight for $210,000 a year. The firm is credited with helping the city get more than $290 million in federal funds in recent years.
One of the big wins for Holland and Knight was the $50 million federal grant Charlotte got for security during the DNC. However, every convention host city since 2004 has received the same amount of money.
Still, Charlotte intergovernmental affairs manager Dana Fenton says the lobbying firm was helpful,"because there was a lot of talk just a year and a half ago about not providing the security funding this time around. So it was nowhere near a slam dunk."
Fenton also gives Holland and Knight credit helping Charlotte securing funds for light rail. So, five members of the city council voted unanimously last week to keep the firm on the city's payroll at about $17,500 a month. Councilman James Mitchell says every big city needs a DC lobbying firm these days.
He says it's not enough for the mayor or city council to call up members of Congress and ask for money.
"I mean you have to spend time in their face, meeting time with their staff," says Mitchell. "It would really take a full-time person like the mayor. He would have to spend probably four days a week up in D.C."
All together, the city spends about $350,000 a year on lobbying when you include Dana Fenton's salary as Charlotte's chief lobbyist at the state capitol in Raleigh.
Holland and Knight became the city's DC lobbying firm in 2003. That year the city council ended its contract with the Ferguson Group because it represents a dozen other cities and counties in North Carolina - including Mecklenburg.
"It was felt that they weren't giving their full attention just to Charlotte," says Fenton.
Holland and Knight has agreed not to represent any other local government in North Carolina. The firm does represent a dozen other big cities elsewhere, though, including Philadelphia, Austin and San Francisco.
According to Holland and Knight's lobbying disclosure forms, the firm's highest paying clients last year were industrial chemical company Praxair, the American Fisheries Institute and several Native American Tribes.
Fenton says Holland and Knight's work for Charlotte this year will focus on speeding up funding for a new control tower at the airport and a federal courthouse Uptown.