Private Equity’s Top Washington Lobbyist to Step Down

Steve Judge, the private equity industry’s top lobbyist, told executives of the leading firms he will step down later this month.

Judge, 61, plans to leave the post Aug. 15, he wrote in a letter to members of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg. James Maloney, a spokesman for the council, confirmed the contents of the letter and said the board will begin a search for a replacement.

The eight-year-old council represents Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group and KKR & Co., as well as smaller private equity firms, in their dealings with U.S. regulators and lawmakers. KKR’s Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is the current chairman of the council.

“Steve’s unique and powerful combination of strategic insight, bipartisan relationships and generous spirit have made him an invaluable asset to the private equity and growth capital industries and the millions on whose behalf we invest,” Mehlman said in an e-mailed statement.

The association has fought to retain the tax treatment of private equity profits, known as carried interest, and has so far successfully parried efforts to treat those earnings as ordinary income rather than capital gains. The likelihood of that battle heating up under the next U.S. president played into Judge’s decision, he said in the letter.

Tax Reform

“The first term of the next Administration is likely to produce action on all of our most important issues, including comprehensive tax reform,” he wrote. “The Council must have a CEO committed to serve throughout this period.”

A group of the largest firms created what was then known as the Private Equity Council in 2007 in the industry’s first collective effort to influence policy in Washington. Judge was among the first employees, serving as the vice president of government relations, and was promoted to run the group in 2011.

The council was the primary defender of the industry during the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, when Bain Capital founder Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee. Romney’s Republican rivals, and later the Obama campaign, used his private equity background to portray him as a job-cutting, out-of-touch businessman.

Judge and the council responded by expanding membership beyond the biggest firms and conducting a research effort to illustrate private equity’s reach into the economy. Almost 13,000 U.S. companies have backing from private equity funds, employing 11.3 million people, according to the council.

Judge, who has been treated successfully for cancer for the past two-and-half years, will stay on as a senior adviser through the end of 2015.