Department: David Urban: The Patriot

He’s a decorated war hero, an accomplished lawyer and an all-around good guy. So what’s David Urban doing in a racket like lobbying?

 

Urban wanted to make a mark, and he did: In 2001, ACG took in about $2.3 million, according to financial disclosures. By 2007, its income had nearly quadrupled to $7.9 million. (It now employs 15 lobbyists.)

Much of that growth has come from clients in Pennsylvania, including government agencies. When the scandal-plagued Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission wanted to push through an effort to toll I-80 a few years ago, it tapped ACG (among other firms). Urban’s company has also brought home more than $45 million for SEPTA, and millions more for both the DRPA and the City of Philadelphia’s youth violence and homelessness programs. His connections to Specter also bore fruit: Between 2002 and 2006, for instance, the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative paid ACG $420,000 in lobbying fees, and ACG helped secure more than $3 million in earmarks garnered by Urban’s former boss.

As for the kinds of things Urban does for all that money, there’s his recent work with Comcast, whose merger with NBC-Universal­ has drawn the ire of Congressional critics. To fight back, ACG circulated a letter of support, signed by all but three members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, touting Comcast’s “hands-on involvement in the local communities it serves” and its “numerous, unprecedented up-front commitments to … protect the interests of competitors.”

While the letter was said to be the idea of Bob Brady, his office needed someone to write it who could speak the language of both the FCC and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Brady turned to Comcast, and Comcast turned to Urban, whose ex-boss Specter was a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I [want] a substance lobbyist. I want our lobbyists to be smart and know the business,” says David Cohen, now Comcast’s executive vice president. “David has relationships, but he’s not just a relationship lobbyist.”
Though the letter was only a drop in Comcast’s lobbying effort — Urban was one of 54 government workers-turned-lobbyists the company hired — it certainly didn’t hurt.

URBAN’S EIGHTH-FLOOR OFFICE, in a building one block south of K Street, is generously adorned with pictures and mementos from his life in government: posing with presidents and senators, eating with Fidel Castro, mugging with Yasser Arafat, shooting trap with Dick Cheney (“I shot better than him,” he says). There’s also the plaque commemorating his Bronze Star, awarded for “[developing] a rear-area support plan and [conducting] training with separate elements of the rear area” during the Gulf War.

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