Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

‘She’s Come a Long Way, Baby’

Sen. Al Franken's new chief of staff will be feted tonight at the Iron Horse Taproom, courtesy of Michael Meehan. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Al Franken’s new chief of staff will be the toast of the town tonight — courtesy of Venn Squared Communications.

Venn co-founder Michael Meehan is hosting a cocktail celebration at the Iron Horse Taproom for Casey Aden-Wansbury, who recently rose from Franken’s communications director to chief of staff when Drew Littman left the Minnesota Democrat to head renewable oil and bioproducts company Solazyme’s Washington office.

“So naturally anytime a press flack hits the big chief job we all need to celebrate,” Meehan wrote in an email invitation. “As they say, she’s come a long way baby.”

Meehan’s career, which includes stints as a communications adviser to Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign and as a top aide to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), followed a similar trajectory.

“Not a lot of people make the jump from the press shop to the chief world,” Meehan said Monday.

Solazyme is one of Venn’s “anchor clients,” according to the invitation email. Venn Squared shares a name and co-founder with — but is a separate entity from — Venn Strategies, a lobbying shop with a roster of tax, health and education industry clients. Franken sits on the Energy and Natural Resources; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Judiciary and Indian Affairs committees.

The Iron Horse Taproom hosts groups of 30 to 75 in its “small bar area,” where revelers “get their own dedicated bar and bartender, a private bathroom, a shuffleboard table, various coin operated video games, 4 tvs and great spaces for sitting, drinking and having fun,” according to its website.

Though the rental fees for the space run $150 to $175 an hour, depending on whether attendees pay for their own drinks or the host picks up the tab, Senate ethics experts told Roll Call that a lobbying firm could host a cocktail reception for a current staffer so long as the Hill employee was not involved in the planning or execution of the event.

“The rules would allow it, provided that certain criteria are met, but then it becomes a perception issue,” an expert said. “Is it generally a good idea? No.”

Aden-Wansbury and Franken’s office did not respond to HOH’s requests for comment.

Correction: Jan. 31, 2012

An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the services provided by Venn Squared Communications. It is a strategic communications firm. Venn Strategies is a lobbying entity.

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