Brett Smiley’s firm is adding a lobbying arm, changing its name

Local campaign finance wunderkind Brett Smiley is adding a new title: lobbyist.

Smiley’s five-year-old firm CFO Compliance LLC is getting a new name – CFO Consulting Group – and adding a new public affairs practice to go along with its work on financial compliance and fundraising for Democrats. The focus will be on developers and other clients who need to work with municipalities.

The new practice’s initial clients are the City of Providence and the Greater Providence Board of Realtors. Smiley said he’s planning to register as a State House lobbyist for Providence but not the Realtors, who already have a registered lobbyist there.

Smiley told his approach will be different from fixtures of State House lobbying such as former Warwick Mayor Joseph Walsh and former House Speaker Bill Murphy, focusing more on public campaigns along the lines of last year’s successful effort to pass a $25 million affordable housing bond.

“No one’s ever going to out-relationship Bill Murphy or Joe Walsh, and I have a ton of respect for what they do,” Smiley said. “But Bill Murphy’s not organizing a rally … so that’s the difference.” Arianne Lynch, who used to specialize in the type of work Smiley will do, left the firm Advocacy Solutions last year to become Providence Mayor Angel Taveras’s deputy chief of staff.

“Where I think I fit in the spectrum is that … there’s a lot of people walking the marble at the State House, but not a lot of people running public events, generating letters to the editor, placing op-eds, that are really doing the public affairs side of the government relations piece,” Smiley said.

Smiley, 32, moved to Rhode Island in 2006 to run Democrat Charlie Fogarty’s losing bid for governor and founded CFO Compliance the following year. CFO’s clients have included Taveras and Congressman David Cicilline, plus a long list of out-of-state politicians, many from Smiley’s former home of Illinois, where CFO has a Chicago office.

Smiley said the time was right to branch out now that he’s built up CFO’s compliance team. “In the last five years I’ve gone from being in the basement by myself to two offices and five people, so I’m optimistic that this will grow along similar lines,” he said.

​(photo: CFO Consulting Group)

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