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LABJ Insider: March 27

Lobbyists’ Entrance

Ballard Partners, a Florida-based lobbying and public relations firm with close ties to top Republicans, is making a splash as it enters the Los Angeles market. 

It hired Joe Buscaino, a former Los Angeles city councilmember, a couple of months ago to be the managing partner here. And last week, it said the head of the firm, Brian Ballard, bought a three-story building in the Media District of Hollywood to house his company. He paid up for it. The brokerage, Kidder Mathews, said he spent nearly $11 million, or $972 a square foot, in an area where office space goes for an average of $604, according to CoStar. Ballard Partners will occupy the second floor and the rest will be leased out.

“Ballard Partners aspires to be a lobbying leader in the region,” said Buscaino. The purchase of the building “is a significant step toward our goal.”

Ballard Partners is bipartisan, but has particularly strong ties to former President Donald Trump, who is a longtime client and friend of Brian Ballard. Politico, in a 2018 article, reported that “Ballard is closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town.” (Ballard opened an office in Washington about that time.)

Lately, however, Ballard has drawn closer to Trump’s potential rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He served as co-chair of DeSantis’ 2018 inauguration celebration committee and reportedly is among DeSantis’ inner circle of advisors as he considers a run for president.

For his part, Buscaino can be said to be bipartisan since he has registered as Republican and Democrat at different points in his career.

• • • 

The new boss of what used to be the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel will be the same as the old boss. 


Younes Atallah, who had been the general manager of the hotel before it was shut down earlier this month for a major re-do, will be general manager when it reopens late this year under a new flag. The hotel will be the Regent Santa Monica Beach and will be called a resort rather than a hotel.

Atallah was named “Outstanding General Manager of the Year” last year by the California Hotel and Lodging Association. He serves on the Santa Monica Travel & Tourism board as well as the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce

A few steps south of the Santa Monica Pier, the hotel has been popular with locals since it opened in 1989 thanks largely to its expansive outdoor dining area with 13 fire pits and a pool deck that looks out over the ocean. The 347-room inn underwent a $4.5 million renovation in 2021 and, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press, has been featured on national commercials for Los Angeles tourism.

The Insider is compiled by Editor-in-Chief Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.

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