Purple Strategies and Lighthouse Consulting Group are forming a strategic alliance focused on the energy industry. Purple’s Alex Castellanos and Lighthouse’s Merribel Ayres said the firms will expand their current offerings through the partnership. “In this era of 24/7 cable news and social media, clients now require a full complement of services to help achieve their policy and political goals,” Ayres said. “Purple’s strength in research, digital, advertising and overall communications strategies will expandthe reach Lighthouse provides its clients.”
A top Washington, D.C., lobbying shop that specializes in energy and environmental issues is entering into a strategic alliance with a growing bipartisan communications and public affairs firm.
Purple Strategies, the communications company that also has a lobbying component, announced yesterday that it is joining forces with Lighthouse Consulting Group LLC, a government relations firm with expertise in the energy sector. According to a news release, the alliance, first reported yesterday by Politico, “will allow the two firms to provide a seamless approach for comprehensive government affairs advocacy in the dynamic energy field.”
Lighthouse is a 15-year-old firm whose clients have included the power company AES Corp., the Constellation Energy Group, the Edison Electric Institute, Pepco, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, and the U.S. Power Generating Co. Its president, Merribel Ayres, is the former CEO of the National Independent Energy Producers and former director of government affairs for Champion International, a forestry products company.
Purple Strategies is a bipartisan firm founded by Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, who merged their respective firms together. It includes a large roster of well-known former campaign and communications strategists, including Rob Collins, who recently left the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Jim Jordan, who for a time managed the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
“We are excited about the opportunity to expand our profile in the energy and environmental advocacy arena,” Castellanos said in a statement. “We work closely with companies and associations that represent the industries that fuel our nation’s economy, so this makes sense.”
Ayres said the partnership would enable Lighthouse to offer clients “a full complement of services to help achieve their policy and political goals. Purple’s strength in research, digital, advertising and overall communications strategies will expand the reach Lighthouse provides its clients.”
Washington, D.C. – Purple Strategies, Washington’s leading bipartisan, full-service communications firms, today announced a strategic alliance offering with Lighthouse Consulting Group, LLC, a government relations firm with expertise in the energy sector. The alliance will allow the two firms to provide a seamless approach for comprehensive government affairs advocacy in the dynamic energy field.
“We are excited about the opportunity to expand our profile in the energy and environmental advocacy arena. We work closely with companies and associations that represent the industries that fuel our nation’s economy, so this makes sense,” said Alex Castellanos, a Founder and Partner at Purple Strategies. “Purple will now be able to pair our public affairs and lobbying services with Lighthouse’s government affairs expertise in the energy arena.”
“In this era of 24/7 cable news and social media, clients now require a full complement of services to help achieve their policy and political goals,” said Merribel Ayres, President of Lighthouse. “Purple’s strength in research, digital, advertising, and overall communications strategies will expand the reach Lighthouse provides its clients.”
Alex Castellanos and Steve McMahon formed Purple Strategies by merging two Republican and Democratic firms because they recognized the need for a balanced, bi-partisan approach to corporate communications and issue advocacy. The firm provides a unique perspective on public affairs by providing comprehensive government affairs and lobbying, message strategies, opinion research, integrated advertising, media relations and grassroots outreach. Purple’s clients include national and international companies, trade associations, coalitions, advocacy organizations, associations, and nonprofits.
“Earlier this year, Jim Jordan and Rob Collins joined Purple Strategies to create a government advocacy and lobbying offering for clients. The Lighthouse relationship will further strengthen the scope and depth of this offering,” said Steve McMahon, Founder and Partner at Purple Strategies.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2011, Lighthouse is a government affairs and management consulting firm with an established concentration in energy and the environment. The firm maintains strong ties to industry executives and a bipartisan array of leading policymakers, NGOs and think-tanks. Lighthouse has a wealth of experience leading advocacy campaigns that have helped shape national energy and environmental legislation. The firm’s international client list includes corporations, investment banks and insurance firms, associations, coalitions, and nonprofit groups.
You can’t accuse Merribel Ayres of pursuing a cliché K Street hobby. Most lobbyists take up golf. Some spend their after-work hours sailing, fishing or working out at the gym. Ayres, who runs Lighthouse Consulting Group, serenades officials, clients and colleagues in Cabaret shows during her spare time. “I approach it much the same way I do lobbying or political work,” Ayres said. “No matter how much preparation you’ve done, there’s always improvisation and creativity with the audience.”
Ayres, who grew up singing but retired at age 13, began taking voice lessons in 2001 after her marriage broke up. She eventually hired Lise Bruneau, whose 25-year career credits include the Shakespeare Theatre Company and the Arena Stage, to direct her performances. Musical director and broadway composer Daniel Sticco handles the score.
Her next show, “The Secret of Life,” is just a few weeks away. To prepare for the invite-only affair at a foreign embassy in northwest D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood, Ayres said she has embarked on an intense workout of music making and staging. The program includes songs by Jacques Brel, Stephen Sondheim, Irving berlin and James Taylor. And her guests — though she won’t disclose their names — have included Members of Congress, executive branch appointees, corporate executives and congressional aides from both sides of the aisle.
“I saw her do a performance of a few numbers in a more informal situation, and then I went to the last show at the Four Seasons. The first thing you have to say is it takes a lot of guts,” said client Bill Tyndall, Duke Energy Corp.’s Senior Vice President for Federal Policy. “She obviously enjoys her singing and throws herself into that just like she throws herself into her job for her clients.” But don’t expect her to give up her lobbying gig. “People have always told me, ‘you could’ve gone into the theater. you could’ve been a director,’” she said. “But I tell them, ‘I am a director.’ My work at Lighthouse informs the theater.”
Ayres, whose 14-year-old boutique firm brought in $2.4 million in lobbying and other consulting fees last year, focuses on energy legislation. Her clients include Alliance Pipeline, AES Corp. and the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of companies and groups that lobbies for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Duke Energy, The Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, General Motors Co. and Shell are members of the coalition.
She decided to set up her own shop after serving as CEO of the National Independent Energy Producers. "I was on the other side of the table running a trade association and hiring any number of lobby firms and public relations firms,” Ayres said. “I came to the conclusion there was a gap, a need for a firm that had an integrated approach to politics, policy, messaging and communications in the energy and environment community.”
She said her business model is about more than “just getting a meeting” on Capitol Hill. “Getting the meetings is the easy part,” Ayres said. “It’s about knowing how to make the best of the information that you use at the meetings.” She said her lobbying firm is bipartisan, but Cabaret, well, that’s nonpartisan. “When you get into the arts, it’s about being expansive,” she said.
Ayres, who once worked for the late Rep. William Cotter (D-Conn.), said she tries to bring a similar open attitude to lobbying, especially in an election year that could dramatically transform the outlook for her issues in the next Congress. In this election cycle, she has contributed to the campaigns of Democratic and Republican Members, including Sens. Harry Reid (D-nev.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), as well as Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.), according to Federal Election Commission records.
“The outcome of the elections will inform the lay of the land on energy legislation,” she said. “This is an assessment period. “We’re evaluating what’s a smart, different way to approach energy and environmental policy goals with a changed political dynamic,” Ayres added. “you have to embrace the changes.” Just like improvisational moments in Cabaret, “It’s organic,” she said. “There will be some new opportunities with a more balanced Congress.”
Tyndall said seeing Ayres perform Cabaret is a stark contrast to sitting across a table from her during a policy strategy session plotting for the next session on Capitol Hill. “It’s taking yourself totally out of normal business interaction and doing something completely different,” he said. “The only thing that comes across is how much she loves doing it and how much fun she’s having. it’s contagious.”
Tyndall added, “It’s a little lesson about doing what you want to do and taking risks, even if people are not going to think that it’s the normal thing that a Washington power broker should be doing.”