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Baltimore drops one of two federal lobbying firms

Baltimore officials have dropped one of two firms that lobby the federal government for the city, but renewed the $262,000 contact of a second D.C. lobbying company.

Washington Linkage Group Inc., will no longer represent city government in lobbying efforts in Washington, city officials said Wednesday. The D.C.-based firm has been paid $732,000 by the city since 2004.

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Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the city wanted to move in a different direction. "Priorities in Washington are constantly shifting," he said. "It's natural to do an evaluation of whether the lobbyists you have relationships with are best suited to meet the city's needs."

Zina C. Pierre, the founder of Washington Linkage Group, declined to comment.

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On Wednesday, the city also renewed a contract with Van Scoyoc Assocates, which has been paid more than $1 million for lobbying efforts since 2000. The Board of Estimates approved a 2-year, $262,000 contract for that firm to continue lobbying on tax issues, federal funding appropriations, education reform and municipal finance, among other issues.

Van Scoyoc vice president Kevin F. Kelly is a former aide to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Deputy Mayor Andrew Smullian said Van Scoyoc focuses on lobbying on Capitol Hill, while Washington Linkage had worked on "relationship building." Smullian said city officials felt "comfortable" staying with Van Scoyoc.

"They've really proven themselves," he said. "They have the relationships. They know Maryland. They represent a lot of non-profits. They know the delegation. Kevin Kelly used to be the head clerk to Mikulski for a number of years."

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Asked why Baltimore needs lobbying firms in Washington, Harris replied: "Why would we put ourselves at a strategic disadvantage? Every major city has lobbyist representation. It's a little unreasonable to operate any differently. We want to use every resource we can to get results."

Smullian said the city is looking into whether it should hire a second federal lobbyist to replace Washington Linkage.

"There is the possibility we will go with another firm," he said.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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