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    April 28, 2008  


Understand the NEW LOBBYING laws?  Neither do we.  That’s why we’ll be at BNA’s upcoming conference on the topic.  May 5th, Washington Marriott.  Last chance to sign up.


If you don’t think GCs at non-profits can have the same bottom-line focus as those in the corporate world, Jim Simon of Oceana will be happy to disabuse you of that notion. After serving as deputy head of DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division under Clinton, Jim did a stint at McKinsey and is now applying a Wall Street approach to Oceana’s lofty mission to protect the world’s oceans.


When Jim calls Oceana a “dream non-profit,” he’s not bragging; he’s being literal. The organization came into existence six years ago, after a select group of deep-pocketed foundations conceived of a group dedicated solely to ocean preservation, a noble but abstract goal that can get lost in the shuffle of other environmental objectives. The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Oak Foundation, and Marisla are all original funders.  Oceana’s key contributors have seats on the 13-member board, and because of their heavy investment, Jim says they direct the non-profit with much the same outlook as venture capitalists. (The upside: meetings are held in watery destinations like Majorca, Monterey, and Juneau.)


For board meetings, Jim says he and CEO Andy Sharpless discipline themselves to identify pragmatic, measurable goals that can be accomplished in two-to-four years. (Like Jim, Andy is a Harvard Law grad with a business mindset: after attending the London School of Economics, he co-founded RealNetworks and headed up Discovery.com). They’ve put a focus on stopping “bottom trawls,” a fishing practice of dredging the ocean floor with nets that Jim says can be large enough to hold 11 747’s. Through litigation and lobbying, so far Oceana has protected a million square miles of ocean from the practice, with 180,000 in the Bering Sea recently declared off limits. Next up: using current WTO negotiations to reduce the $25 billion in government subsidies for commercial operations, which Jim says leads to overfishing.


With $16 million in 2007 revenue, Oceana just moved its 55 DC employees (110 worldwide) to a new DuPont address—outfitted, of course, with an aquatic theme (just look at those wall colors).  Jim works from there when he isn’t sailing the Chesapeake in a boat from his Annapolis club, J/Port. Or sailing the Mediterranean in the Ranger, Oceana’s 71-foot catamaran and research vessel. Or dining on his favorite fish, wild-caught Alaskan salmon.

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Andrews Kurth

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