Like many law firms, Blank Rome will be throwing a party this week during the Republican National Convention. The event, which is expected to draw 500 revelers, will be held in the lobby of New York’s storied Chrysler Building and is a hot ticket on the evening social circuit.
Blank Rome and its chairman, David Girard-diCarlo, will have much to celebrate.
Over the last four years, the Philadelphia-based firm has worked steadily to gain footholds in Washington and in the Bush administration and to solidify a role among the GOP’s elite supporters.
The groundwork was first laid in Pennsylvania, when Tom Ridge, then the state’s governor, looked to Girard-diCarlo, one of his longtime political boosters, to help him bring the 2000 Republican Convention to Philadelphia.
Since then, Blank Rome lawyers and lobbyists have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for President George W. Bush, worked for free on the Florida vote recount, and poured more than a half-million dollars into Republican state and nationwide campaigns, rivaling the donations of far larger firms.
At the same time, Blank Rome’s presence in Washington, D.C., has grown significantly, expanding to more than 70 attorneys and lobbyists, from about 25 in 2000 — thanks in large part to a 2003 merger with another Republican-leaning law and lobbying firm, Dyer, Ellis & Joseph.
The firm’s size in Washington belies its influence, and it has since started to reap the usual Washington dividends: presidential appointments, access to high-ranking officials, government contracts for its clients — and, most important, more clients overall.
The number of companies for which Blank Rome lobbies Congress has grown dramatically in the last five years.
In 1999, the firm was registered to lobby for eight clients, and in 2002, 18. By 2003, Blank Rome lobbyists registered to represent the interests of 67 clients. The lobbying practice expects to bring in $7 million in retainers this year, Girard-diCarlo says.
In 2000, Blank Rome for the first time joined the ranks of the 100 top-grossing firms in the country, according the annual survey conducted by The American Lawyer magazine, and in 2003, brought in about $224 million in revenue.
All along, its lawyers were continuing to give generously to political campaigns.
During the 2004 election cycle, Blank Rome has again kept pace with much bigger firms, giving slightly more than $1 million to local, state and federal political campaigns, with 20 percent going to Democrats and 80 percent to Republicans, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Of the top 20 law and lobby firms that have given political contributions in 2004, Blank Rome ranks third, just behind the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and law and lobby firm Piper Rudnick, which is twice the size of Blank Rome.
For most of its existence, Blank Rome, founded in 1946, wore the profile of the regional firm it was, with small outposts in Pennsylvania towns like Allentown and Media, along with offices in Boca Raton, Fla., and Cincinnati.
Its 2000 acquisition of 80-lawyer Tenzer Greenblatt in New York began to change that image, and its subsequent growth in the District has signaled the firm’s intent to go national.
When he first heard buzz about Blank Rome about two years ago, veteran Washington lobbyist Ronald Platt wasn’t sure what to make of the Philadelphia firm.