After a difficult beginning, the new firm of Schlossberg-Cassidy begins to make money. A third lobbyist, James P. Fabiani, joins the firm and brings discipline to its operations. But prosperity begins to bring out the differences between Ken Schlossberg and Gerry Cassidy.By Robert G. Kaiser
As their new lobbying firm began to thrive, Kenneth Schlossberg and Gerald Cassidy were the closest of pals. Their bond was obvious in March 1977, two years after they had launched their business, when Schlossberg was married for the second time. He asked Cassidy to be his best man. The Schlossbergs and Cassidys could celebrate their good and improving fortunes together.
As it often does, prosperity brought unintended consequences. Both men started to see themselves in a new light -- but not the same new light. Their relations grew more complicated and more competitive.
Schlossberg , a small man with boyish good looks and energy, was a bit of a romantic. He was a '60s liberal, a former newspaperman who didn't really want to be a lobbyist. He wanted to be a consultant -- an advisor, a policy wonk, a creative counselor who would guide clients through Washington's bureaucratic and political thickets.
Cassidy, the squarely built former football player, had a more commercial attitude. Unlike Schlossberg, he was a lawyer. He considered himself a liberal Democrat, too, but once he left Sen. George McGovern's staff, politics moved out of first place on his list of personal priorities. "I'm a big fan of financial security," Cassidy explained in an interview in 2005. "I didn't have a lot of it as a kid, so I wanted to be successful and financially secure."
The Web site of what is now Cassidy & Associates describes Cassidy as the founder of the firm, though the early corporate records suggest Schlossberg was the original moving force. In an early filing with the D.C. Government, Schlossberg is listed as the company's president, Cassidy as secretary-treasurer. (view the firm's original incorporation papers [pdf]) "It was my idea," Schlossberg said.
But Cassidy sees himself as the initiator: "I wanted to start a lobbying business." Asked why the firm was called Schlossberg-Cassidy, Cassidy replied: "We did it by age." Schlossberg was the oldest by five months. Moreover, when they considered what "sounded best, we decided that Schlossberg-Cassidy sounded better than Cassidy-Schlossberg."
When told this explanation, Schlossberg just laughs.
Both men agree that Cassidy and his wife, Loretta, took care of many practical tasks. Cassidy recalled: "Around December  we had enough money, I thought, to get an office. We found -- actually Loretta and I found -- a place at L'Enfant Plaza that was a single office that you could have a little reception area if you put in book cases to block it off. That was our first office. We moved in there like March or so. We initially rented furniture."
Loretta Cassidy did most of the secretarial work in the early days. When, with Schlossberg's blessing, Cassidy arranged for the legal incorporation of the firm, he listed Schlossberg, Loretta and himself as its three directors.
In 1976 a new client materialized, the Ocean Spray cranberry cooperative, a marketing organization owned by farmers in six states and Canada. Cassidy got the call this time, both men remember. The cranberry growers were having trouble getting their juice approved for use in the school lunch program.
Schlossberg did not warm to Ocean Spray. The representative who first visited their new office in L'Enfant Plaza "was a cigar smoker who dropped his ashes," Schlossberg remembered. "I thought he was a big jerk." He was also put off by the conservative politics of some Ocean Spray executives. He recalled playing golf with one who "delivered a diatribe against Franklin D. Roosevelt. You'd have thought we were back in 1933."
But Cassidy was pleased with the client, and particularly pleased when, in 1979, Ocean Spray accepted his suggestion to create its own political action committee (PAC). Cassidy managed the PAC, and has done so for many years. Schlossberg found the idea of a PAC distasteful:
"Gerry explained to me ..... how this could make us a bigger player and help get things done. ..... We began going down this corporate PAC route as a new line of business." Schlossberg says he didn't like the idea of simultaneously representing colleges and universities and helping a corporate client make political contributions, obviously to win friends on Capitol Hill. This felt corrupting, he said. Cassidy says he doesn't remember Schlossberg ever complaining about it.
Sometime after Ocean Spray became a client, Cassidy, his wife, Schlossberg and his new second wife, Sophia, a Russian-born woman who had recently immigrated to the United States, traveled together to San Diego for an Ocean Spray convention.
Schlossberg and his wife both remember a dinner they shared on that trip with the Cassidys. During the meal the Cassidys confided that they had chosen not to have children, that their great ambition in life was to acquire wealth. Sophia Schlossberg found this startling. She said years later that she tried to warn Cassidy that money would leave him lonely, would provide little solace. Later, when Sophia became pregnant, the Cassidys reacted coolly, both Schlossbergs recalled. Cassidy made clear his fear that a new child would divert Schlossberg's attention from the business, according to the Scholssbergs. (Ilyana Schlossberg was born in 1978.)
Cassidy strongly disputed the Schlossbergs' memories of his and his wife's attitude toward having children. "To suggest it was based on economics is just simply cruel," Cassidy wrote in a statement he posted on his blog on March 9. "The painful fact is we could not have children on our own and made a difficult decision not to adopt." [Gerald Cassidy Responds to This Chapter]
Working at close quarters with Cassidy and a new secretary in a one-room office in L'Enfant Plaza in Southwest Washington made Schlossberg uncomfortable. He says he didn't like hearing Cassidy lose his temper on the telephone, or bang the desk in frustration. His irritation with his partner was growing. Cassidy shared similar feelings: "I was starting to be annoyed with things. ..... He would not be around." Cassidy thought Schlossberg did less than his share of the work.
Nevertheless, the business kept growing. They got a larger office in L'Enfant Plaza, one which put a shared receptionist between their separate offices. Schlossberg remembers reading an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reporting on how much universities paid professionals who helped them do fundraising. He realized that Tufts University had been getting a bargain by paying them just $60,000 a year. They went to Tufts to demand an increase-to $250,000. Tufts offered $125,000, "take it or leave it," Schlossberg remembered
"Gerry was incensed" when we left that meeting, Schlossberg said, but they accepted Tufts' offer -- the equivalent of about $415,000 in today's dollars. "Despite the fact that things were going great, he was causing a ruckus and I didn't know how to talk to him about it," Schlossberg recalled. "Maybe it was my fault. ..... I don't have a good way to deal with those kinds of problems."
No stickler for detail, Schlossberg had never carefully read the corporate documents drawn up when the firm was founded. But he did so now. "I realized that Cassidy could fire me, at least technically." Gerry and Loretta could outvote him two-to-one on the board of the company. He consulted a lawyer friend, seeking advice. The lawyer suggested he make a strong effort to enlarge the business and increase its revenues, so there would be more to divide if this marriage collapsed.
With that in mind, Schlossberg persuaded Cassidy that they should offer a job to James P. Fabiani, the then-34-year-old principal aide to Rep. Silvio Conte (R-Mass.). Schlossberg hoped that adding a third person would create a buffer between the partners. He also thought it would be good to add a Republican to the firm.
Fabiani's tenure began gloriously with a reception in the Capitol hosted by Conte. Schlossberg-Cassidy paid for the bash, but Conte greeted virtually all the 500 or so guests in a receiving line that included Schlossberg, Cassidy and their new hire. Cassidy recalled being amazed by the event, which of course was great PR for their firm: "I was going up [to the Hill] to something that I thought would be a couple of dozen people. It was in one of those rooms in the Rayburn Building, and it was just totally filled. ..... And Sil [Conte] stood in the reception line for an hour just saying hello to people."
Several months later, still trying to grow the business, Schlossberg persuaded Cassidy and Fabiani to offer a job to Frank Godfrey, executive assistant to House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Godfrey was just 27, a bear of a man, widely beloved, including by many members of the House. One of his jobs for O'Neill was doing favors for Democratic members, particularly Massachusetts congressmen. When Godfrey was hired, O'Neill also gave a big reception on the Hill, another free advertisement for Schlossberg-Cassidy.
By the time Fabiani started work in July 1982, he could see the tensions that were developing between Cassidy and Schlossberg. "Gerry was the hard charger," Fabiani said, "and Ken was just a very different, more reflective, creative person [who] had more of a philosophical approach to clients." Schlossberg acted more like the boss, but "Gerry was emerging. ..... My observation was of Ken not liking what the firm was becoming, therefore doing a lot less, removing himself, not showing up for days."
This was Cassidy's perception as well. "All I wanted him to do was to decide whether he was in the business or out of the business, and work as hard as I was working," he recalled recently. Revenues were up, but spirits were down. After nine years, after establishing a whole new way to make money in Washington, Schlossberg-Cassidy was heading for rough water.
Schlossberg disputes the suggestion that he was a slacker. " I was giving up a highly visible, important job [as staff director of McGovern's nutrition committee] paying the highest staff salary in the Senate to try my luck at independent fortune. You think I would take such a decision lightly? That I would not, in my own way, put my heart and soul into the new venture?"
Fabiani's arrival at the L'Enfant Plaza office changed the chemistry of the enterprise. "I'm an organizer," Fabiani said, recalling his first days at work. "I wasn't in the top quarter of my class at Harvard or anything like that ..... but when it comes to practically structuring and executing something, I get the job done. ..... So at one point I went out and bought one of these big wipe-off boards. We had a very small conference room. I put it up on the wall. I put the names of the clients down one side, and across the top I put all of the steps that we needed to accomplish, and at what time points they needed to be accomplished, and then we had the grid, the matrix."
Fabiani in fact did go to Harvard after graduating from Phillips Andover Academy, an elite Massachusetts prep school. He'd later worked as a dean at Deerfield Academy, founded in 1797. Conte brought him to Washington to work on the staff of the House Appropriations Committee. A liberal Massachusetts Republican, Conte was a close friend of O'Neill's. A small and unprepossessing man, Fabiani looks like an accountant. His father was Dante Fabiani, a successful first generation Italian American who rose from humble origins (his father had been a gardener) to become CEO of the Crane Co., a big engineering firm.
In later years, the firm's "matrix meetings" became legendary; this was the very first one. "The three of us sat and had this meeting of filling in the boxes and setting strategies," Fabiani recalled.
Fabiani remembers that "Ken got up about half way through the meeting and left, and never joined another meeting." (Schlossberg thinks he stayed on and Cassidy walked out.) Fabiani concluded that "to picture the whole thing wasn't Ken's style. To look at it and articulate it as 'These are all the tasks that we have to do to in my opinion to succeed,' that just threw Ken off."
Cassidy saw clients as a source of revenue; he always wanted "to land ten more," Fabiani said. But Cassidy was disinclined to get personally involved with the matrix: "Gerry said to himself, OK, I understand this can help us get the job done, but somebody else is going to do it. It's not my thing."
Fabiani thought he had hit on something useful, a way to be sure they were keeping tabs on their work and staying in touch with clients. Over time, his businesslike approach proved extremely effective.
With Fabiani's help, Schlossberg-Cassidy continued to grow despite the deteriorating relationship between the founders. The partners liked each other less now, but they both loved the money. Schlossberg bought a new house in Falls Church, then another, then a big place in Great Falls, with a tennis court. Cassidy bought a nice new home in McLean. The firm's revenues climbed toward $3 million dollars a year.
Washington Post research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.
Monday: A leprechaun helps Schlossberg-Cassidy strike gold.
Key Related Materials
Cassidy Responds to This Chapter
The Washington Post's Style of Gotcha Journalism
Today's instant access world is full of questionable headlines of celebrities and other sensational information that is passed off as legitimate news. You would think reputable news sources such as The Washington Post and its reporters would be immune from that trend. However, this morning, Lorettta and I personally experienced the slash and trash of gotcha journalism from none other than The Washington Post.
Today's article by Bob Kaiser showed a serious lapse in news judgment. He reported that Loretta and I allegedly made a callous decision not to have children purely based on his notion that we were solely focused on acquiring wealth. Let me tell you, we did not get much sleep after reading this online last night. We were both stunned to read this hurtful accusation from a source that clearly has a bias against our family.
If Bob Kaiser had asked me about this in the nearly three years of interviews I had with him, I would have told him that we, like many families across the country, were faced with a very private and personal decision early in our marriage. To suggest it was based on economics is just simply cruel. The painful fact is we could not have children on our own and made a difficult decision not to adopt.
Bob Kaiser should be ashamed of himself for reporting such a sensational falsehood. As I have shared with you, I was skeptical early on about his motives and intentions to write such an elaborate series on me and Cassidy & Associates. At the beginning of our countless number of interviews, we made a good faith agreement that Bob referred to as his "no surprises" rule. He repeatedly assured me that he would give me an opportunity to respond to any allegations or rumors that others might suggest to him.
Today, Bob Kaiser violated that rule and violated our trust.
Throughout this process we were reassured by Bob's strong reputation as a serious journalist, but his reporting today has put a big question mark next to that. I can only hope that this grossly unfair attack on my wife and me is not evidence of his further examination of my life.
-- Gerald Cassidy
Robert Kaiser on Cassidy's Response
In one of our interviews, I raised the issue with Cassidy of "your and Loretta's decision not to have children." I did not ask him specifically about the Schlossbergs' memories of that dinner. I regret that omission.
-- Robert Kaiser
An overview of Gerald Cassidy's life and career.
A "cast of characters" in the life and career of Gerald Cassidy.
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