Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 20, 2014

Posts in "Lobbying"

April 16, 2014

Alignment Government Strategies, New Lobby Boutique, Comes Into Alignment | Downtown Moves

Five lobbyists at Williams & Jensen are leaving to set up their own bipartisan shop, Alignment Government Strategies.

Bert Carp, Michael Beer, Rebecca Anderson, Jenny DiJames and Pat Pettey, all formerly with Williams & Jensen, are joining with Leo Jardot, who previously ran the Washington office for the pharmaceutical firm Wyeth.

“We saw an opportunity to do something entrepreneurial,” said Carp, who served as a domestic policy aide in the Carter administration and lobbies on telecom, tax, energy and other issues.

In 2013, Williams and Jensen was the seventh largest lobbying practice, according to reports filed with Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Full story

April 9, 2014

Abbott Ups Haas to Top Lobbyist | Downtown Moves

Abbott Laboratories has a new chief federal lobbyist.

The pharmaceutical and health care company promoted Rosemary Haas to vice president of federal government affairs. It also created a new trade policy team headed by Jason Grove, who will manage global issues.

An outside spokeswoman for the company said neither was available for comment because Abbott does not allow its government affairs employees to speak with the press.

Haas has been with Abbott since 1984 and spent the past nine years as a senior director in federal government affairs. She has focused on tax, nutrition and health care policy and  spearheaded the company’s effort to repeal the medical device tax included in the Affordable Care Act, according to a company press release. Full story

March 5, 2014

Groups Try to Mute the Comcast Lobby | K Street Files

Just what will a “Comcastic” lobbying budget buy you? A growing coalition of consumer groups hopes “not a new merger” is the answer.

It’s been three weeks since Comcast Corp. announced its intention to merge with Time Warner Cable. The two companies are worth more than $25 million on K Street alone, based on last year’s lobby tabs. But what remains a mystery is whether that will tip the scales in the companies’ favor. Full story

February 5, 2014

Revenge of the Little Shops | K Street Files

For three years in a row, the total amount of on-the-record federal lobbying cash has slumped. For three years in a row, Thorn Run Partners’ piece of that total has jumped.

Ditto for Clark, Geduldig, Cranford & Nielsen; Shockey Scofield Solutions and Thorsen French Advocacy. Elmendorf Ryan hit its all-time high last year with more than $10 million in lobbying revenue.

What gives? Full story

January 7, 2014

The Beginning of Wyden World? Former Top Aide Joins Capitol Counsel | Downtown Moves

The job market on K Street looks a lot like the rest of the country’s employment situation. It’s tough.

That is, unless you were chief of staff to the incoming Senate Finance chairman — in which case, who wouldn’t want to hire you?

Josh Kardon, who logged 17 years with Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat poised to take the Finance gavel, has a new gig as general counsel of Capitol Counsel, a bipartisan firm with deep ties to the current chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. Baucus, of course, plans to head to China soon, as President Barack Obama tapped him last month to be his top envoy there. That has opened up the chairmanship of one of the most plum committees in Congress. Full story

The State of K Street | K Street Files

No one expects a boom in the lobbying business this year. But out of the dysfunction and stalemate of 2013, K Streeters see signs of potential work in select areas, including a revival for an old standby: appropriations.

The bipartisan budget deal (tiny as it may have been) from late last year has given lobbyists cause for hope that a return to regular order on appropriations bills will offer them a legislative vehicle to work on behalf of clients.

Still, for any Hill staffers or soon-to-be-ex-members of Congress eyeing a gig downtown, the hiring scene on K Street will continue to be tight and the competition fierce.

Lobbyists are also trying to woo lawmakers to extend 55 lapsed tax credits. A patent bill, immigration matters, a farm bill, regulatory work and trade policy may also drive business. And K Streeters are looking to set the stage for longer-term overhauls of the nation’s tax code and housing finance system. Full story

December 4, 2013

Partying Within the Rules | K Street Files

Hide the silverware. Stow the dinner plates. And definitely keep that 100-year-old cognac corked.

This is how K Street gets ready for a holiday shindig in the age of the Capitol Hill party police.

Fancy finery and displays of luxury have been replaced by toothpicks and finger foods. Six years ago, changes to the rules tightened the restrictions on gifts that members and staff may accept from lobbying groups, including food and drinks at lavish soirees.

Some good news for those seeking holiday cheer: Many K Street-Capitol Hill holiday parties slip in through the reception exemption, which allows for menu items of nominal value. And while the scene may not be what it once was, the parties go on.

Full story

December 3, 2013

Joe Grano, a One-of-a-Kind Washington Advocate

I’m going to miss Joe Grano’s pitches. The Washington activist was a bare-knuckle brawler for varied causes, from historic preservation to D.C. citizens’ representation, and he knew how to get his message across with panache.

He died Nov. 24 at the age of 68 at George Washington University Hospital. Mike DeBonis’ obituary in Sunday’s Washington Post encapsulates Grano’s unique history in the nation’s capital, from his life-changing fight to preserve Rhodes Tavern (which he lost), to his longtime advocacy for Constantino Brumidi, the Italian-American artist whose work adorns the Capitol Rotunda.

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Grano tended to the grave of Brumidi at Glenwood Cemetery in Washington. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Joe was a relentless advocate and had a special place in his heart for Constantino Brumidi’s contributions to the beauty of the Capitol,” said John Bicknell, a former editor at CQ Roll Call who is now executive editor at 1105 Media, who also fielded Grano’s pitches.

Grano, a man passionate about many issues, was far from the slick characters depicted in “This Town,” the chummy, rubbing-shoulders citizens of the capital of glitz that Mark Leibovich chronicled for his book of the same name. Full story

November 7, 2013

Chamber Hill Strategies Expands | Downtown Moves

Chamber Hill Strategies, a government affairs firm specializing in health and tax policy, has hired Jennifer N. Higgins as a principal, the firm announced Thursday. A former principal at Tauzin Consultants with health care experience also at Capitol Health Group, the Marwood Group and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Higgins joins a firm that was launched in October 2012 by Michaela Sims and Jennifer Bell.

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Sims, left, and Bell are expanding their firm. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“We are thrilled Jenn is joining the firm. Few in DC can rival her combination of deep health care policy experience and political relationships,” Bell said in a statement announcing the hire. Full story

November 5, 2013

Who Does Congress Listen to Most? | K Street Files

It might just be the ultimate insiders’ strategy: When pressing a client’s cause, try to catch the ear of the two offices that Congress most cares about to spread your message.

This duo of influential outposts isn’t the House and Senate leadership. Rather, Hill staffers’ most valuable sources of information are the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office.

That’s according to research done by ex-K Streeter David Rehr, who holds a doctorate in economics and is now an adjunct professor with George Washington University’s graduate school of political management.

If you’re a lobbyist and you’ve never tried to cultivate the CRS or the CBO, you might be missing out, Rehr says. Just don’t expect it to be easy.

“I’m a little surprised that people don’t naturally think of CRS or CBO as part of the process,” Rehr said recently. “And I think the one thing the research said to me: They’re more important in the process than we probably realized.”

Rehr 042903 105x147 Who Does Congress Listen to Most? | K Street Files

Rehr

Rehr’s survey of bipartisan aides on Capitol Hill found that 55 percent rated the CRS’ information as “very valuable,” the most of any source. They ranked the CBO third — after academic and issue experts — at 32 percent.

These findings don’t match up with the sources that lobbyists think Hill aides find most important, Rehr’s research showed. Neither the CRS nor the CBO even registered among lobbyists’ top 5.

“It’s a little harder in the culture of advocacy because if you’re not used to doing it, you do what’s easier for you,” Rehr said. “If you were a Hill staffer, now you lobby staff and members.”

Michael Fulton, a longtime lobbyist who is with the Arnold Agency, recently heard Rehr’s pitch and said the idea clicked with him because he relied on CRS reports when he worked on Capitol Hill.

“My daughter works on the Hill, and she lives by them, and I used to live by them when I was on the Hill,” Fulton said. “I think if a CRS report has any inaccuracies or is leaning away from your client’s perspective, it would be valuable to correct that sooner rather than later.”

When it comes to dealing with the numbers-driven, wonky CBO, lobbyists caution that if you don’t have the data to back up a client position, it’s probably not worth the stop.

“It’s not really lobbying, it’s educating,” said one veteran health care lobbyist. This K Streeter noted that the CBO, which “scores” how much each piece of legislation will cost, is less interested in meeting with lobbyists or the Washington representatives of corporations and instead wants high-level executives, actuaries or economists who speak their language.

“People don’t approach them lightly or approach them ever without an outside numbers run or solid policy arguments that would shape a score,” this lobbyist said. “They’re going to dig, and they’re going to find the answer.”

A spokeswoman for the CBO referred me to its website, which explains that in preparing its cost estimates and other analysis, “CBO uses data and other information from a wide variety of sources, including federal agencies, state and local governments, and industry groups, among others. CBO closely follows professional developments in economics and related disciplines, encourages open discussion of analytic issues, and consults with outside experts in a broad range of relevant fields for guidance on ongoing work.”

Lobbyists who’ve worked with the CRS, a branch of the Library of Congress, say it can at times seem more shrouded in mystery and potentially more difficult to navigate as an outsider with an agenda. Many of the CRS reports are private and come only at the request of a member of Congress.

“I think the better way to go is to have a congressional champion who then writes to the CRS,” Rehr said. It’s also crucial to identify the researcher who handles the topic your clients care about.

“You’ll see who wrote the CRS report, and you find out you knew them from GW or American [University],” Fulton said.

Then, you can make the connection directly.

“CRS experts use available information from a wide variety of sources, on all sides of issues, enabling them to serve Congress with comprehensive, authoritative, objective and nonpartisan research and analysis,” CRS Communications Specialist Cory Langley wrote in an email.

Rehr said the research service is “less numerical” than the CBO, “so they’re even more open to data and empirical studies that help them do their job better.”

Still, said Rehr, the former head of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, it’s not as if you could hand a CRS researcher a study on beer taxes and they’ll include it in one of their reports. “But it might influence the report,” he said.

And a CRS or CBO mention that isn’t negative means ready-made talking points, one-pagers and potential fodder for issue advertising.

“Sometimes you get some favorable paragraphs or a reference, then you can pull that out and create lobbying material,” Rehr said.  “It gives you a little more oomph.”

October 1, 2013

What’s a Hill Résumé Worth on K Street? Maybe Not $500K

If you’re a Capitol Hill staffer eyeing a K Street gig — and let’s face it, who isn’t? — you might want to avoid Rep. Phil Gingrey’s advice when it comes to salary expectations.

The Georgia Republican, like a lot of people on the Hill, seems to hold unrealistic ideas about compensation downtown.

Aides in their mid-30s “can just go to K Street and make $500,000 a year. Meanwhile I’m stuck here making $172,000,” Gingrey scoffed during a private meeting amid debate over Obamacare subsidies for Hill staff, according to a report.

 

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Gingrey seems to have unrealistic salary expectations for Hill aides going to K Street. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In fact, it’s the rare congressional aide who can decamp for a lobbying job and command half a million dollars a year in compensation. And in the current K Street economy, hiring managers get jittery at the prospect of bringing on new employees who don’t come with a book of client business and a record of getting paid to effectively persuade. Full story

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