Retiring Democratic Rep. Brian Cronin is taking over the Boise office of Strategies 360, the lobbying and communications firm that fired two former aides to former Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick in February.
Cronin, who is retiring from the Legislature this year, said he does not have plans to lobby and will not register as a lobbyist when he begins work next week. Cronin has operated Cronin and Associates, a marketing and communications firm, for a decade and said he hopes to draw some of his current clients to Strategies 360, which has 10 offices in western states.
Cronin said he supports his party’s call for a one-year cooling off period before a legislator or other high-ranking state official may lobby the Legislature or executive branch.
“I don’t have any plans to do that right now,” Cronin said. “I don’t want to say ‘never,’ but that’s not why they hired me. I’m attracted to them because they’re a strategic communications firm. They do marketing, they do branding, they do public relations, they do social media and social networking.”
Added Cronin: “A lot of this has nothing to do with public policy. Now, is there some policy work? Sure, but even that doesn’t necessarily mean lobbying. But no, I made it fairly clear that I don’t intend to be a full-time lobbyist or that those are even the kinds of clients I want to pursue.”
Paul Queary, vice president of communications for the Seattle-based Strategies 360, said he couldn’t rule out Cronin lobbying some day, but added, “Our sense is Brian’s inclination and his very impressive skill set lend themselves to a different basket of clients. We were tremendously impressed with his qualifications and we think he’ll be a tremendous asset to the firm and help our clients achieve success.”
Cronin said he expects to complete his term, which ends when new lawmakers take office in December. He said, however, that if he took any Strategies 360 work that conflicts with his legislative duties, he would step down. Three Democrats and a Republican are vying to replace Cronin in the district that encompasses Boise’s North and East ends.
Cronin will be a senior vice president, the same title held by Minnick’s former spokesman and campaign manager, John Foster. Foster and a colleague in the Strategies 360 Boise office, Kate Haas, were fired in February. Haas served as Minnick’s chief of staff. Both Foster and Haas were and remain registered lobbyists.
They were let go after word that Foster was chosen by Republican Gov. Butch Otter to help defeat three referendums on the November ballot to overturn the 2011 school laws that GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna authored and calls “Students Come First.”
The Idaho Education Association is leading the effort to overturn the laws, which limit collective bargaining to pay and benefits, establish pay-for-performance and mandate online courses and new technology in high school. Strategies 360 lost at least one client, the Professional Firefighters of Idaho, after news Foster would be assisting Republicans.
Strategies 360 is suing Foster and Haas in 4th District Court. Foster and Haas, who have opened a new lobbying firm, Kestrel West, have counter-sued.
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