K Street’s heavy hitters took a hit in 2012, with most of the region’s 10 largest lobby firms earning less revenue last year than in 2011. The top 10 firms saw revenue dip a collective 10 percent, from $256.9 million to $232.6 million.
Seven of the top 10 firms reported declines in revenue ranging from 5 percent to 30 percent. The three exceptions — Brownstein Hyatt, Podesta Group and Williams & Jensen — stayed flat or grew modestly.
It is the second year in a row that most of the largest firms saw lobbying earnings slip. Lobbyists attributed the 2011 downturn to an overall weak economy and a deadlocked Congress sidetracked by the debt ceiling debates. Some cited similar reasons for a down year in 2012, but said that may change now that a new Congress is in session and the presidential election is over.
“Congress literally just wasn’t here in the fourth quarter, and when they were, they were doing fiscal cliff avoidance stuff which isn’t the type of activity that generates a lot of lobbying,” said Rich Gold, who heads the public policy group at Holland & Knight. Gold said the firm’s public policy practice overall saw revenue grow about 6 percent, boosted by regulatory work with federal agencies.
“It wasn’t the days of 2009 where we were debating the health care bill and passing the Recovery Act, but it was a reasonable year,” he said. “2013 will be better.”
H. Stewart “Stu” Van Scoyoc, president of lobby firm Van Scoyoc Associates, said there are signs — such as the House agreeing to vote on suspending the debt limit in order to reach a budget agreement — that Congress is returning to a more “normal”state.
“The last two years, because Congress was doing so little and we were facing a presidential election, a lot of people were waiting for the beginning of the new Congress and completion of the last presidential election” to hire lobbyists, Van Scoyoc said. “We’re seeing signs of recovery ... [the House vote] is a first step toward a more ‘back to normal’ process. They’re using the debt ceiling to force a budget process. That’s a more traditional process, the kind of legislative activity that clients and lobby firms in town are going to be more engaged in.”
Year-end lobbying figures were reported to the Senate Office of Public Records this week. Here’s how the top 10 firms fared:
• Patton Boggs: down 5 percent from $48.4 million to $46 million
• Akin Gump: down 18 percent from $38 million to $31.2 million
• Podesta Group: up less than 1 percent from $27.4 million to $27.5 million
• Brownstein Hyatt: up 2 percent from $22.1 million to $22.5 million
• Van Scoyoc Associates: down 11 percent from $25.3 million to $22.5 million
• Williams & Jensen: virtually unchanged at $18 million
• Holland & Knight: down 5 percent from $19 million to $18 million
• K&L Gates: down 8 percent from $18.7 million to $17.2 million
• Cassidy & Associates: down 23 percent from $20.2 million to $15.6 million
• Ogilvy Government Relations: down 30 percent from $19.9 million to $14 million