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Thursday, November 27, 2014

UNM switches to a new lobbying firm to represent its interests in Washington, D.C., at nearly twice the cost of the previous firm

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By Daily Lobo file photo / New Mexico Daily Lobo

UNM President Robert Frank, shown above, supported hiring a new lobbying group, Madison Associates, to represent the University’s interests in Washington, D.C. This new lobbying firm carries a price tag of nearly twice the cost of The National Group, the agency which represented the University for the past two years.

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The new lobbying group UNM hired this year will cost the University twice as much as the lobbying group it used in previous years.

UNM’s contract with The National Group ended last year and the University hired Madison Associates to represent it in Washington, D.C. UNM will pay the group $237,000 as part of its one-year contract. This price is nearly double that of the past two years, when the University paid Delaware-based corporation The National Group $120,000 annually.

UNM President Robert Frank said the University’s new contract with Madison Associates is a valuable investment by the University. Frank said the lobbying group’s expertise will represent UNM better in the national capital and may even bring more federal funds to the University.

“In a highly competitive research environment, the University of New Mexico must assure yearly success in obtaining federal research money,” he said. “Having effective federal representation is critical to our success. The Madison Group has a proven record in facilitating federal funding. Other research universities spend two to four times as much on the types of services Madison is providing UNM.”

Frank said that although the contract costs twice the price UNM paid for lobbying for the past two years, it is still an efficient move by the University.

“For a major research university like UNM with a budget of $2.4 billion, it is essential that our interests are understood and well-represented before Congress,” he said. “This contract with Madison Associates, which outlines specifics that UNM wants to accomplish, is a cost-efficient way to do business.”

According to the contract between UNM and Madison Associates, the lobbying group will represent UNM’s stance on matters in the national legislature, conduct annual visits with the University administration on-site at UNM, and be responsible for subcontracting “any business plans.” The group will also send monthly progress reports to the University. The contract will last until the end of 2013, but can be renewed for three additional years, for a total of four years.

According to the previous contract between UNM and The National Group, the firm had been tasked with similar duties, with the exception of annual visits. Instead, the group submitted quarterly progress reports to the University. UNM paid The National Group $280,000 annually from 2008 to 2010, but the University re-negotiated its contract with the firm and brought the price down to $120,000 annually.

UNM Director of Communication Dianne Anderson said a select committee chose Madison Associates among 10 bidders for the University’s request for proposal. The committee did not include President Frank. She said Madison Associates received the highest score from the committee, and that The National Group did not submit a bid for the request.

Anderson said the University administration was in consensus that The National Group’s efforts were insufficient. She said the new contract with Madison Associates will enable UNM to monitor Madison Associates’ progress more closely by communicating with the University more frequently.

“Dr. Frank agreed with the regents that the results of National’s efforts were difficult to measure and not as impressive as the University wanted,” she said. “The new contract with Madison Associates spells out specific, measurable services or deliverables. It also places the oversight of the consulting services under the UNM Government and Community Relations office while providing close monitoring and frequent correspondence on the firm’s progress.”

Anderson said funds for the new contract will come from the research budgets of the UNM Health Sciences Center, main campus and from the president’s office. She said each sector will pay for one-third of the total fee.

According to the contract, Madison Associates will “help raise the University’s profile at the federal level, direct, advise and assist with contact with Administration staff, advise and assist in marketing the University to federal agencies … (and) identify sources of funding and associated research/development focus areas for federal initiatives.”

Frank said he is confident Madison Associates will help UNM.
“All of these services will benefit the University in a time when federal dollars are in high demand,” he said. “We need to make sure that UNM is in the running for these valuable sources of funding.”