Former Corker staffers launch one of top lobbying startup firms last year

Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Todd Womack, center, heads up the firm of Bridge Public Affairs located in the Volunteer Building. From left are Brent Wiles, Micah Johnson, Womack, John Goetz and Presley Nixon.

A lobbying firm organized in Chattanooga by former aides to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker was one of the top grossing startup lobbying shops in the country last year, according to a new Bloomberg Government analysis of Senate lobbying disclosures.

Bridge Public Affairs, which former Corker Chief of Staff Todd Womack started last year with other veteran Congressional aides, earned more than $1 million in its first year lobbying the federal government on behalf of Volkswagen of America, the software company Ivanti Inc. and several Tennessee-based clients.

Former senior Senate staffers are barred from lobbying the Senate for a year after they leave their Congressional jobs. But Womack, whose lobbying and PR firm has offices in both Chattanooga and Washington D.C., told Bloomberg that Bridge Public Affairs has "really been an extension of our public service."

Womack joined with Corker's former communications director, Micah Johnson, and the senator's former state director, Brent Wiles, to create Bridge Public Affairs in January 2019 after Corker retired from the U.S. senate after 12 years and was succeeded by Marsha Blackburn.

The company also includes John Goetz, a former director of public affairs for the Swedish wheelchair manufacturer Permobil, and Presley Nixon, who previously worked as an intern at the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga and Sseko Designs in Portland, Oregon.

The PR and lobbying firm operates in an office just down the hall from their former boss, Bob Corker, who still owns the Volunteer Building where the company is headquartered. Bridge Public Affairs represents Corker, but the former senator is not involved in Bridge Public Affairs.

With four registered federal lobbysts, Bridge Public Affairs, ranked No. 5 in the Bloomberg ranking of the highest-grossing new lobby shops in 2019 with total 2019 revenues of $1.03 million.

The Chattanooga-based company is still only a fraction of the size of the top lobbying firm of 2019. Bloomberg said Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld was the highest yielding lobbying firm in Washington D.C. last year, grossing $42.6 million.

Collectively, Bloomberg said more than $3.4 billion was spent on lobbying in 2019 - the highest amount since 2010.