New Firm Seeks to Advance Moderate-Driven, Bipartisan Policy Solutions
WASHINGTON – A new lobbying firm in town hopes to seize what its principals call a “unique opportunity” to advance moderate-driven, bipartisan policy solutions on Capitol Hill and beyond.
Called the SMART Policy Group, the firm brings together more than 75 years of combined government relations experience.
Its founding partners believe a confluence of events — the start of the Biden Administration, a 117th Congress in which one party controls both chambers by a narrow margin, as well as state legislatures looking for new ways to grow their states’ economies after the coronavirus pandemic — may well herald a new era of common sense and pragmatic law and regulation making after one of the most politically divisive times in American history.
“We’re all friends who have been lobbyists for a long time, and one thing we had in common in our working lives was having a lot of clients who expressed a need for less partisan solutions to a whole host of public policy issues,” said Gaurav Parikh, one of the firm’s founders.
Parikh, who formerly served as the Democratic lobbyist for the National Association for Federal Credit Unions and in the past was the director of state and local affairs for the National Restaurant Association, said he and the rest of what is now the Smart Policy team — founders Carrie Annand, Dustin Brighton and Maureen Walsh — shared their clients’ dissatisfaction with the prevailing climate of hyper-partisan legislation and messaging bills.
“So in about the middle of last year we started talking seriously about coming together to build a firm that might be able to drive policy from a center-focused purview,” Parikh said.
“The idea is to utilize the Problem Solvers Caucus and the Mod Squad and the Blue Dog Coalition and other moderate groups — all smart, centrist policymakers — to get some things done and move the needle forward for this country.”
Parikh went on to say be believes Senators and members of Congress were having conversations very similar to those transpiring between he and his partners over the past year.
“I think policymakers and the American public have both realized that we need to move away from the hyper partisanship that has led to the discord in this country,” he said. “And I know behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, there have been serious conversations about how members of different parties can best work together to get the country back on track.”
“We want to place our clients in those rooms and at those tables, and have them be part of those conversations as well,” Parikh added.
The firm’s partners all have rich and varied experience in the public policy sector, having worked across industries ranging from financial services to energy and the environment to transportation and infrastructure to technology and telecommunications.
They will soon be joined by Markus Videnieks, whose title will be vice president, and who comes to the SMART Policy Group after having led national campaigns for the school transportation industry and having spent more than a decade advancing clients’ federal legislative priorities on issues including appropriations, energy, education, and transportation.
Speaking to The Well News on Monday, Parikh was well-aware of the irony of discussing bipartisanship and overcoming divisiveness on the eve of a presidential impeachment.
But he said he thinks of both the impeachment and the rift currently manifesting itself in the Republican party “as a form of growing pains.”
“It’s like a brother and a sister fighting and ultimately figuring out how they operate and function together as a family,” he said. “In the short-term, the impeachment is probably going to magnify the worst of what our partisan politics has become.
“As for the in-fighting within the GOP. I think it’s something you see in both parties, as there’s continued unrest between the moderate Democrats and the far-left progressives. But in both cases, it’s a matter of the parties trying to find themselves and figure out how to move forward,” he said. “Now, these are conversations our country needs to be having in order to finally move past the divisive era we’ve all experienced … and I expect whether it’s one month or six months from now, we’re going to reach a place that looks and feels very different.”
The SMART Policy Group is headquartered in Arlington, Va., with offices on Capitol Hill.
Its initial client list includes the American Biogas Council, Biomass Power Association, Brightmark, Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, National Energy Resources Organization, Sorrento Therapeutics, Maimonides Hospital, and the NYC Alliance.
“There are a lot of great public policy firms in this town, and we pride ourselves on being among those great firms,” Parikh said. “We believe what differentiates us among those great firms is our approach to being both strategic and also using key metrics of performance management to drive the way we work on our clients’ projects and provide results for them.”