Some big money in Washington D.C. can be found at boutique K Street lobbying firms. Nobody knows that better than Randy Russell, president of the Russel Group, which for 40 years has worked the halls of Congress, mostly on behalf of agricultural interests.  Russell is known for generating and retaining clients and growing his firm’s lobbying income.    

Russell’s latest move is the launch of a new consulting firm called Groundswell Strategy to highlight the talents of Carmen Rottenberg, who until a few days ago was the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) top administrator over the nation’s 10,000 meat and poultry inspectors.  

With the announcement that Rottenberg is the new managing director of Groundswell Strategy  speculation ended about where in the private sector she would land.  She will be focusing on “customizing “strategic approaches for clients that interact with regulatory agencies.”

“I’m grateful for my experience as a policymaker and leader of a food safety regulatory agency, and look forward to helping clients navigate the regulatory maze in a more strategic way,” said  Rottenberg, 

“It’s an exciting time in the U.S. food and agriculture sector, as the U.S. government focuses on innovation and modernization, in order to ensure that we can safely feed and clothe a rapidly growing world.  I look forward to working with stakeholders who want to leverage this movement into strategic success, as they seek to improve and expand their influence across the U.S. government and the world.”

In her new role, Rottenberg will be overseeing the day to day operations and client development.   Russell will serve as chairman of the board and says he is excited to be an equity partner with Rottenberg in this new business venture.

“Throughout my over 40-year career in the agriculture and food arena, covering both government and advocacy work, my philosophy has been to build long term relationships,” said  Russell.

“Having worked with Carmen Rottenberg over the course of the last decade, I know she shares this philosophy and commitment.  My equity investment in Groundswell Strategy is an investment in the future of agriculture consulting.  Carmen is uniquely positioned to develop comprehensive strategic approaches to the regulated world in which we live.”

Carmen Rottenberg recently departed USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service after 13 years of service.  She held several leadership roles at the Department, including as acting deputy under secretary for USDA’s Office of Food Safety from August 2017 through January 2019, and administrator from May 2018 to March 2020. From April 2016 to August 2017, she served as FSIS deputy administrator.

Rottenberg is credited with spearheading and implementing several key agency initiatives in recent years including modernizing food safety inspection systems, implementing siluriformes inspection, and establishing and updating pathogen performance standards. Through her leadership and oversight, an unprecedented level of collaboration was achieved with federal, state, and municipal agencies, as well as other stakeholders.

She began her federal career in the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of General Counsel and has experience working in the public and private sectors. She holds a bachelor’ of arts degree in political science and philosophy from Hope College in Holland, MI, and a juris doctor degree from American University’s Washington College of Law.

Randy Russell is the president of The Russell Group, a food and agriculture government affairs firm. Prior to joining the firm in 1986, Randy served in a number of agricultural policy positions, both inside and outside of government, including chief of staff for Secretary of Agriculture John R. Block, deputy assistant secretary for economics at the USDA, vice president for agriculture and trade policy at the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, director of government relations for The Pillsbury Co., and the 1981 Farm Bill Coordinator for USDA. Russell also served on the Senate Agriculture Committee staff for Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, R-MN.

Russell attended George Mason University where he did both his undergraduate studies in public administration and graduate studies in economics.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)