In a development that’s both great and bad for Baltimore and Maryland at the same time, Dr. Leana Wen, the city’s highly respected health commissioner, was named the new president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America on Wednesday [read
One week after a handful of government relations professionals abruptly left a leading Annapolis lobbying firm – an unusual mass departure shrouded in mystery – they announced Monday that they are hanging their own shingle. The venerable lobbying firm countered by hiring a new director of its government relations practice. But mystery continues to surround the professional fate of the firm’s previous government relations director – who happens to be married to the lead partner of the new lobbying shop.
Maryland Matters reported last week that Alexander & Cleaver, one of the most prominent legal and government affairs shops in Annapolis for more than two decades, had been shaken by the departures of some of its top lobbyists. On Monday, five of those lobbyists – Hannah Powers Garagiola, Tyler Bennett, Moira Moynihan Cyphers, Isaac Meyer and Alexandra Shull – announced that they have formed Compass Government Relations Partners LLC, with offices in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. It will become one of the few women-owned firms in the highly competitive world of Annapolis lobbying. Hannah Powers Garagiola
In an interview, Garagiola said she and her colleagues have a variety of political and legislative experience and a range of policy expertise. “It’s an enthusiastic group – a lot of energy, a lot of diversity,” she said. Garagiola said the firm is starting with more than a dozen clients. She declined to name them but said announcements would be forthcoming. Garagiola also declined to say what the professional status of her husband, former state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola, is – except that he is not working for Compass. Rob Garagiola had been the director of the government relations practice at Alexander & Cleaver, and was reportedly part of last week’s mass exodus. Last week, A&C’s partners, Gary R. Alexander and James Cleaver, held open the possibility of legal action against the firm’s departed lobbyists. Brian W. Hammock
Alexander announced late Friday that Brian W. Hammock, most recently a vice president at CSX Transportation, would become the firm’s managing attorney of the government relations practice. “Brian has been a trusted advisor to Maryland’s top elected officials and business leaders over the past two decades,” Alexander said in a memo. Prior to working for CSX, Hammock was a top adviser to then-Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D), both in the State House and when O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore. He also worked for Venable LLC, the law and lobbying firm. Early in his career, he worked for Alexander & Cleaver, making his return “a coming home of sorts,” Alexander said in the memo.
Wen becomes the first physician to head the health and reproductive rights organization in almost 50 years. She replaces Cecile Richards, who headed the organization since 2006. Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) said Wen’s last day on the job would be Oct. 12.
In a three-minute biographical video released Wednesday, Wen discusses her family’s journey from China to the U.S. (she was 8), her desire to become an emergency room physician so she could help patients from all economic walks of life, her tenure as city health commissioner and her goals for Planned Parenthood. She vowed to focus on advocacy and health care. “What we are doing is mainstream medical care,” she says. Reaction from Maryland leaders was swift and unanimous – a great choice for Planned Parenthood, and a great loss for the state.
Here is a sampling of statements:
Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) “I am grateful to Dr. Leana Wen for her many contributions to improving the health and well-being of all Baltimoreans as Health Commissioner since 2015. We have made significant progress in addressing issues of health disparity across our City, and in developing innovative approaches for prevention and treatment. Dr. Wen has achieved national leadership on a broad range of public health issues, which has also led to national recognition for the Baltimore Health Department as among the most impactful in improving health outcomes for citizens of all ages. “As Dr. Wen’s last day with the Baltimore City Health Department will be Friday, October 12th, 2018, we will be initiating a national search to identify the next Health Commissioner immediately. In the meantime, we wish Dr. Wen continued success and look forward to benefiting from her leadership on the national level.”
U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) “It is with equal parts sadness and pride that I congratulate Dr. Leana Wen on being named the new president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. As Baltimore City’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Wen championed the important principle that health care is a human right, made access to care more affordable, and fought the Trump Administration’s actions to restrict access to reproductive care with the ferocity of someone who truly understood what was at stake. She has been an incredibly influential and effective voice and advocate for a healthy Baltimore. Her departure is a tremendous loss for our city, and I expect we will feel that loss more acutely in the months to come. But she will be a tremendous asset to Planned Parenthood. No one is better suited to defend and advance women’s health care in this difficult political environment than Dr. Wen.”
Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) on Twitter “I am soooo excited!!! One of the nation’s largest health care providers once again has a doctor at the helm, because doctors know firsthand there is nothing political in needing health care. It’s a fundamental human right. Ready to welcome @PPFA’s new president @DrLeanaWen
U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) on Twitter “Dr. Wen is a brilliant physician and a passionate public health leader. Although she will be sorely missed by Baltimore, I look forward to continuing our shared mission to ensure that all of our citizens have access to quality, affordable healthcare.”
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Twitter “Please join me in congratulating @DrLeanaWen, Planned Parenthood’s new President who will continue fighting to protect women’s health care and rights!”
Maryland Health Care for All on Twitter “A great choice by @PPFA. @DrLeanaWen has fought to save lives and expand care for Baltimore’s most vulnerable communities. Though #Baltimore will miss Dr. Wen, her expertise, care, and tenacity will make her a great president.”
U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) “I join in congratulating Dr. Leana Wen on becoming the new president of Planned Parenthood. She has done an outstanding job in Baltimore as an advocate for public health and overseeing programs serving the most vulnerable populations in the city. She successfully took on the Trump Administration in court after it tried to rescind federal funding for preventing teen pregnancy and fought to keep clinics serving low-income families open. Planned Parenthood is fortunate to have her at the helm during this critical time in its history, as the organization continues to help lead the fight for women to have access to the full range of health care options, including reproductive care.
“Planned Parenthood plays a crucial role in providing care to women and their families in communities across the country, and I will continue to stand up for its funding and the safety of its patients, physicians, and staff. I look forward to working with Dr. Wen to ensure that Congress recognizes the organization’s important work and does not impede its ability to provide these critical services wherever they are needed. I thank outgoing president Cecile Richards again for her years of service.”
Cecile Richards on Twitter “I couldn’t be prouder to welcome @DrLeanaWen as the new president of @PPFA. She has dedicated her career to fighting for health care for all, both as a doctor and as a public health leader in the city of Baltimore. I know she’ll be a champion for Planned Parenthood patients and for women, men, and young people everywhere.” “Shocker. Planned Parenthood’s new president isn’t a politician. She’s a medical professional.”