Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 2, 2015

Posts by Kate Ackley

34 Posts

February 24, 2015

K Street Donors Make Early White House Picks | K Street Files

They’re not billionaire industrialists poised to bankroll millions in the 2016 campaign, but K Street still matters to the crop of aspiring presidential candidates.

Lobbyists are tapping long-established networks of donors to help their favored White House contenders rack up early money.

Full story

February 10, 2015

K Street Files: McBee Shop Rebuilding Under Wiley Rein

Rob Chamberlin never took his ex-boss, Steve McBee, for the type who would sell his K Street outfit to a big, multinational advertising conglomerate.

Turns out, he was right — sort of.

But he could not have predicted what happened to the firm late last year.

Like his other 60 colleagues, Chamberlin was shocked when McBee announced his departure from the shop he founded to take the chief executive job at energy company NRG Home. Law firm Wiley Rein bought McBee Strategic Consulting and amid the chaos nearly 20 people hit the exits, including McBee’s wife, Jennifer Noland, and several high-level lobbyists.

The drama is over now, according to Chamberlin and others who remain at McBee. Their message: McBee is open for business, clients are signing up and the firm is making senior-level hires as it rebuilds under the new ownership. Full story

January 27, 2015

K Street Files: Realtors Rack Up Record Lobby Tab

If you’re looking to pick a fight with the National Association of Realtors, the group just may have a coded message into its recent lobbying disclosures: Watch out.

The realtors spent the second most of any lobbying group — $55 million — in 2014 when legislation to overhaul the nation’s housing finance system took on some momentum before fizzling out amid congressional gridlock. Full story

By Kate Ackley Posted at 1:02 p.m.
K Street Files

January 13, 2015

K Street Files: Some Ex-Members Lining Up Gigs

Former Senator Saxby Chambliss has already found a job on K Street. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Senator Saxby Chambliss has already found a job on K Street. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It took hardly any time at all for just-retired Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

Ditto for ex-Reps. Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Bill Owens, D-N.Y.

The trio of former lawmakers, part of the club of about 70 members who left Capitol Hill earlier this month at the close of the 113thCongress, have already landed gigs on K Street. Full story

January 7, 2015

Harbinger Strategies Adds Manny Rossman | Downtown Moves

Harbinger Strategies, the just-opened firm of ex-aides to Eric Cantor, has added a fourth lobbyist: Manny Rossman, a former Senate leadership staffer who was previously with the Breaux Lott Leadership Group.

Rossman began his career on Capitol Hill as an aide to the late Rep. Phil Crane, R-Ill., who was a senior member of the Ways and Means panel. He later went to work for then-Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., handling his Senate Finance portfolio, and later moving into leadership. “We officially opened our doors this week,” said Steve Stombres, the former top leadership aide to then-House Majority Leader Cantor, R-Va. “It’s an exciting time for Harbinger and our four founding partners to be able to announce our mystery partner.”

Full story

December 23, 2014

K Street Files: Steve McBee on Leaving His Shop (Updated)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated Dec. 26, 11:40 a.m. | Steve McBee never was your typical K Street character.

So perhaps it should not have come as a shock when the 46-year-old founder of McBee Strategic took a most unconventional career path, ditching his business to become CEO of NRG Home, a $6 billion energy concern with 5,000 employees. Full story

December 9, 2014

Clark Geduldig Adds GOP Energy Lobbyist Mike Catanzaro

Catanzaro is moving on to Clark Geduldig (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Catanzaro is moving on to Clark Geduldig. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The all-GOP lobbying shop Clark Geduldig Cranford & Nielsen is picking up a new energy policy hire with ties to House and Senate Republicans.

Mike Catanzaro, who previously handled energy and environmental issues for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and once worked as an aide on the Senate Environment and Public Works panel, will join the firm in the coming weeks. Full story

November 19, 2014

K Street Files: Democratic Lobbyists Still Have Value

Pryor failed in his re-election bid, but as a moderate Democrat could land a top job on K Street, Ackley writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Pryor failed in his re-election bid, but as a moderate Democrat could land a top job on K Street, Ackley writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democrats may have taken a pummeling in this month’s elections, but K Street still sees value in hiring them.

A disproportionate number of Democrats from Capitol Hill, soon-to-be ex-lawmakers and aides alike, are looking for jobs. With the Senate flipping to GOP control and House Republicans getting an even bigger margin, Democrats lose committee slots and clout. As a result, the K Street job market may not be as robust for the party’s denizens, as Republicans have seen a rise in their value downtown.

But there is still demand for Democrats.

If House and Senate GOP leaders are to pass some of the lobbying community’s signature legislative measures, such as fast-track trade authority or an extension of the Export-Import Bank, they will need to woo sufficient Democrats to make up for their Republican defectors, who often hail from the tea party wing. Full story

October 29, 2014

K Street Files: Is That a Lobbyist Knocking on Your Door?

Lobbyists are hitting the campaign trail this fall, including for Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lobbyists are hitting the campaign trail this fall, including for Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the midterm elections one week away, K Street lobbyists are taking their powers of persuasion to the campaign trail. Their target audience: voters.

Though they may be more accustomed to trolling the halls of the Capitol or getting stuck on client conference calls discussing legislative strategy, over the next few days, lobbyists plan to employ a different set of skills that include walking door-to-door, holding campaign signs or driving voters to the pools in major contests around the country.

“I’m ready not to sleep and to wear very comfortable shoes and go wherever they need me,” said Dawn Levy O’Donnell, who runs the firm D Squared Tax Strategies.

O’Donnell is heading to Colorado to help the campaign of Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat who is in a tough race against GOP Rep. Cory Gardner. She went to college at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus and considers the state a home.

Full story

October 14, 2014

Will All the GOP Lobbyists Please Stand Up?

Kimberley Fritts may not be the Podesta Group’s typical public persona. That role most often belongs to Democratic donor and firm founder Tony Podesta.

But with the GOP poised to make gains in the Senate — perhaps big enough to capture control of the chamber — Fritts, a former Republican staffer who usually stays behind the scenes, recently sat in her downtown corner office and touted the shop’s ties to her party.

“We’ve got a very strong bench of Republicans here that I’m really proud of,” said Fritts, Podesta Group’s CEO. Full story

September 16, 2014

Influence Industry Remembers ‘Unique’ Thomas H. Boggs Jr. | K Street Files

Boggs, who died on Monday, is remembered warmly by his colleagues. (CQ Roll Call File Photo.)

Boggs, who died on Monday, is remembered warmly by his colleagues. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Thomas H. Boggs Jr. had the clout of an oracle, the air of a senator and a joie de vivre that gleefully declared his family’s Louisiana roots.

The son of the late House Majority Leader Thomas Hale Boggs and Rep. Lindy Boggs built his firm into the top grossing K Street practice. He was an institution himself, representing trial lawyers, businesses and associations until his death Monday of an apparent heart attack at age 73. Lawmakers and presidents of both parties sought more than his campaign cash; they wanted his counsel. He gave them both.

“He was a pioneer in our industry,” said Haley Barbour, founder of the BGR Group and the former Republican governor of Mississippi. “But for most of us who knew him, he was just a great friend and very, very smart.” Full story

By Kate Ackley Posted at 1:23 p.m.
Uncategorized

July 29, 2014

Mini-Mega Donors Dominate Downtown Giving | K Street Files

In the jet-set world of the country’s biggest political donors, K Street can seem puny.

Individual lobbyists typically do not reach into the highest levels of personal campaign contributions; that’s an echelon billionaires dominate.

But K Street’s elite mini-mega donors have blown beyond the former federal “max out” limitation of $123,200 that the Supreme Court threw out this spring in its McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision.

Now that lobbyists — and anyone else — can give to all congressional candidates, as well as to party coffers and political action committees, K Street’s biggest donors have to search for new ways of saying “no.” And sometimes that translates into a simple “yes.”

“With me, it’s always a matter of the good causes that come along that may make you do one more,” said former Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif., a senior adviser with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. With the Senate in play and races likely to tighten up as the midterm elections approach, Fazio said it isn’t easy to say no.

“A time may come, in October, where I will be incommunicado,” Fazio said, half jokingly. “Out of phone range.”

(Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call)

(Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call)

Full story

July 16, 2014

Who Has Time for Legislating Anyway? | K Street Files

Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services panel, was in a rush to recess a lengthy markup so he and the other lawmakers could make it across the street to the Capitol for evening floor votes.

But Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., pleaded for a few seconds to squeeze in his comments before the gavel.

Even though Hensarling reconvened the markup just after those votes, Scott had somewhere else to be. “Thank you, because I have a fundraiser I’ve got to get to right after,” Scott said in a moment of candor that sent the room into surprised laughter.

Scott’s spokesman Michael Andel noted in an email that members are in town about 2.5 days per week. “That’s not a lot of time to do much of anything,” Andel said.

The episode on June 10 offered a rare glimpse into the reality that members of Congress of both parties face, especially in an election year: the constant tension between raising money to keep their jobs and actually doing their jobs.

The dash for cash is nothing new to elective office, but with the increasing costs of campaigns and the ever-bigger potential threats of outside money flooding into races, lawmakers over schedule their short work weeks in D.C. to hit up stakeholders and lobbyists from dawn until dark.

“There are only so many hours in a day, and when you have to spend an increasing amount of those asking people for cash, something has to give,” said Adam Smith, spokesman for Public Campaign, which advocates for public financing of elections. “And what gives, I think, is the job you’re elected to do.”

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform recently released a report that seemed to conclude much the same. Led by ex-lawmakers-turned-K-Steeters such as Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, the commission’s June 24 report found members “spend too much time fundraising, which crowds out the time for legislating.”

“The commission decries the inordinate amount of time that members of Congress spend raising money and worry about the effects of such fundraising on the legislative process,” the report stated. “In particular, we fear that the need to raise ever-increasing amounts of campaign funds is crowding out the time that members have to engage in legislating and government oversight, the job they were sent to Washington to perform.”

The bipartisan group recommended Congress set up a task force styled after the 9/11 commission to make policy suggestions, and urged Congress to pass legislation requiring more disclosure of outside political money. The group also suggested Congress impose new restrictions on leadership political action committees, including limiting the funds to political, not personal, activities.

As much as lawmakers may complain, many of them privately, about the crush of pressure to raise money and the need to fork over donations to colleagues to help them advance in party or committee leadership in a sort of pay-to-play process, Congress seems to have little appetite to revamp the system — at least for now.

But the current way makes for a grueling schedule. House Republicans alone, for example, have 10 fundraisers scheduled on Wednesday, while House Democrats have at least five on the docket, according to party committee lists emailed among lobbyists. Senators also have several events on the docket.

That day, lobbyists and lawmakers can start things off with a breakfast at Bullfeathers benefiting Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y. And they could end the day in a bipartisan way with a reception for Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., at Legal Seafoods in D.C.

To say nothing of the legislative work taking place on the Capitol campus.

Of course, the overbooked lawmakers and unpredictable congressional calendar can make life plenty difficult for lobbyists, too, who are trying to oblige members’ requests to hold fundraisers.

“Many of these events are scheduled weeks or months in advance, and you just don’t know what the voting or committee schedule will be like,” said Michael Herson, who runs American Defense International and hosts fundraisers. If an event is on the Hill, lawmakers usually can pop in, even briefly, between votes or committee meetings. But when the event is across town, the guest of honor may not make it at all.

But even the best of plans could be easily waylaid. “Votes could blow up the entire event,” Herson said.

Kate Ackley is a staff writer at CQ Roll Call who keeps tabs on the influence industry.

June 26, 2014

Coffees, Cocktails for Cantor Staffers

Cantor, center, gave his staff nearly two months to find jobs before he officially leaves leadership on July 31. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cantor, center, gave his staff nearly two months to find jobs before he officially leaves leadership on July 31. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Reality has set in for aides to outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and it looks something like this: coffee and cocktails with headhunters, lobbyists, chiefs of staff, old friends and business contacts. In short, anyone who can help in the job search.

The Virginia Republican’s leadership aides will be out of work by the end of July, setting off a job-search effort that Cantor and his chief of staff, Steve Stombres, have helped spearhead since Cantor lost on June 10.

“Obviously there has been a lot more coffee drunk and lunches eaten than before that primary,” K Street recruiter Ivan Adler of the McCormick Group told CQ Roll Call. “No doubt that people are now reaching out to their librarians and bartenders and rabbis to seek advice.”

Finding a new job can be grueling, even with a plum résumé, the help of a high-profile boss and a vast network of Washington insiders. Full story

June 13, 2014

Unemployment Extension Cause Has Invisible Lobby | K Street Files

Unemployment extension advocates aren't as visible as other campaigns. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Unemployment extension lobbyists aren’t as visible — even though 3 million are affected. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Walk through the Capitol South Metro station and you’ll pass SoftBank ads that festoon the walls — but you won’t see a campaign for the 3 million people hoping Congress will pass an unemployment insurance extension.

Business groups and most big-money lobbies that typically place such advertising to influence the people working in the Capitol either oppose extending jobless benefits, or they won’t take a position.

That leaves the unemployment extension lobbying mostly to people who are out of work themselves, along with an unusual collection of Washington allies: unions, religious organizations, anti-poverty and mental health groups. Full story

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