Asked whether it would be accurate to describe his departure as a firing, a Squire Patton Boggs spokesman reiterated that the “firm’s leadership decided to part ways with Senator Lott.”
But Lott said in an interview that he and his longtime business partner, former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), were in talks with another lobbying firm — he declined to say which one— when Squire Patton Boggs found out and took “what I would consider the low road.”
“We were negotiating with another firm, they found out about it, and they tried to take preventative action” to keep the two men from taking lobbying clients with them to another firm, Lott said.
The decision may have backfired: Lott said he had gotten inquiries from three other lobbying firms interested in hiring the duo since Squire Patton Boggs announced his ouster. He expects Breaux to resign from the firm today.
“He’s in the process as we speak,” he said.
Breaux didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Lott represented Mississippi in Congress for more than three decades, first in the House and then in the Senate. He rose to become Senate majority leader but stepped down as leader in 2003 after he drew widespread criticism and a rebuke from President George W. Bush for praising former Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).
”I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him,” Lott said at a 100th birthday party for Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 on a segregationist platform. “We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”
Lott apologized days later for what he described at the time as “a poor choice of words” that “conveyed to some that I embraced the discarded policies of the past.” He resigned from the Senate in 2007 and started a lobbying firm with Breaux, which Squire Patton Boggs bought a decade ago.
It’s not clear why the firm fired Lott but not Breaux. No one in the firm’s leadership called Lott to inform him why he had been sacked, Lott said. But he said he suspected it had something to do with his remarks about Thurmond. “That’s the impression that I got,” he said.
Squire Patton Boggs wouldn’t say whether Lott’s comments about Thurmond contributed to his firing.
Lott and Breaux had been looking to leave Squire Patton Boggs for a number of reasons, Lott said, including the hassles of navigating conflicts of interest between lobbying clients and legal ones as well as the across-the-board pay cuts the firm announced last month as legal work dried up during the pandemic.
Squire Patton Boggs has been changed dramatically since Breaux and Lott arrived a decade ago, when the firm was still known as Patton Boggs and run by Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., the legendary lobbyist who built it into the top lobbying shop in Washington. Many of the firm’s top lobbyists left for other firms after it merged with the larger law firm Squire Sanders in 2014. Boggs died the same year.
Lott lobbied for 20 of the firm’s clients in the first quarter of this year, including Nissan, SpaceX, UnitedHealth, Airlines for America, United Technologies and the National Association of Broadcasters, according to disclosure filings. While the firm said in its statement that it wanted to change up its leadership, it was still promoting Lott as a leader of its lobbying team as recently as last year.
After Squire Patton Boggs hired former Reps. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) last year, the firm tweeted a photo of the pair with Lott, Breaux and former House Speaker John Boehner. “The new-look #TeamSPB public policy practice,” the firm wrote.