K Street Files: Former Obama Health Care Guru Heads to K Street
April 08, 2014
By Kate Ackley
Roll Call Staff
Who says Obama insiders don’t go to K Street?
The lobbying boutique Avenue Solutions has scored a major new hire from the administration: Yvette Fontenot, who played a key role in the health care overhaul.
Fontenot, who most recently served as deputy director of the Office of Health Reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, previously worked in the White House as senior policy director of the Office of Health Reform. She’s an alumna of the Senate Finance Committee, having served as professional staff for Chairman Max Baucus of Montana.
“Yvette knows the Hill and administration intimately,” said the firm’s founding partner, Tracy Spicer. “She has a deep understanding of health care policy at all levels. She’s just going to be a tremendous asset for all of our clients.”
Avenue Solutions, unique among its peers as an all-female, all-Democratic operation, represents such clients as UnitedHealth Group and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Fontenot, who said she will be barred from lobbying recent former colleagues, including political appointees in the administration, is not prohibited from influencing Congress. (In addition to existing revolving-door restrictions, President Barack Obama instituted new restrictions for his aides who go to K Street.)
This isn’t Fontenot’s first stint in the private sector. She previously worked at the health care firm Jennings Policy Strategies.
Spicer said the hire is the first for Avenue Solutions in more than four years. “This is a big decision for all of us,” she noted. “The way this really works is we all just roll up our sleeves, and we are all working together as a group, as a team.”
Fontenot said she views the move as a continuation of her work, though for specific clients, of implementing the Affordable Care Act.
Kiko to Smith-Free
The bipartisan lobby shop The Smith-Free Group has scored a Hill and K Street veteran as its new vice chairman in Phil Kiko, who just departed the House Administration Committee as staff director and general counsel.
Kiko will focus on such issues as financial services, intellectual property, immigration policy and cybersecurity, among others.
“I’m looking forward to using the experience that I have over many years to help work out bipartisan solutions to the problems that a lot of the clients and companies are facing,” Kiko said in an interview. “That’s been a signature thing with me. I’ve always had good bipartisan relationships on the Hill, and I intend to keep them.”
Kiko also previously worked the Hill from the outside at Foley and Lardner’s public affairs practice. And his congressional experience includes work on the House Judiciary and Science committees.
In a statement, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said Kiko had served the House “exceptionally well” during his decades on the Hill.
“On policy, he played a key role in some of our toughest legislative battles; while on the operations side, Phil did much to professionalize the management of the modern-day House,” Boehner noted.
K Street Moves
Kelley McCormick, an executive vice president with Gibraltar Associates, is setting up shop at the communications and advocacy firm SKDKnickerbocker as a managing director.
Her previous clients have included Dole Foods, HBO and the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“Kelley brings a unique skill set to our firm,” said SKDKnickerbocker’s Hilary Rosen. “She is an experienced and creative strategist who has worked every angle in the communications business, from marketing and branding, to corporate social responsibility and reputation building.”
Meanwhile, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide has added Arisbe Gardner, a one-time congressional aide, as vice president of public affairs.
Gardner will work with clients in technology, health and wellness, energy and environment and economic and business affairs.
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