Registrations don’t equal lobbying dollars right away, nor do they always represent new business — lobbyists file them, for example, when they switch firms and take clients with them. Still, registrations generally indicate fees are likely to follow. And the recent flurry of activity may signal that the $3 billion lobbying industry, whose heavy-hitters are coming out of two years of decline, is picking up steam.
Some say it’s a collective response to signs that Congress — after two years of distractions such as the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff debates, on top of a presidential election — may finally be returning to a normal rhythm of lawmaking.
“Between the spring and the [fiscal] cliff at end of last year, there was a bit of a ‘no man’s land’ where nothing was really happening,” said Ilisa Halpern Paul, a health care lobbyist who leads the government relations group at Drinker Biddle & Reath. “Everyone was home running for re-election or retiring. It was as if Congress hit the pause button. When they did come back, it was all on [fiscal] cliff stuff.”
Now, with the 113th Congress stocked with first-time representatives, the time is ripe for advocacy groups and companies to establish relationships with new members of Congress and get their interests back onto the legislative agenda, Paul said.
The American Foundation for the Blind, a New York-based nonprofit, recently hired Paul’s firm to urge lawmakers to take action on making insulin pumps and glucose monitors more user-friendly for people with diabetes-related vision loss.
The foundation, which advocates for equal access for people with vision loss, had mostly done advocacy work in-house, said Paul Schroeder, the nonprofit’s vice president of programs and policy.
“We’ve been getting nowhere on this issue and decided to enlist [Drinker Biddle] as someone we thought could help either with the [Food and Drug Administration] or encourage the Hill to do something,” Schroeder said. “We had an opportunity to move this forward.”
Schroeder’s group was one of 1,440 entities to lobby Congress and federal agencies on health issues during the first three months of the year. In that period, health-related initiatives made up the third most-lobbied-on issue after the 2014 budget and appropriations process (2,644) and taxes (1,509), according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
All that translates into good news for K Street. Some lobbyists predicted the industry would rebound this year, even after many top firms reported declines in lobbying revenue during the first three months of the year. They pointed to a lag time of up to several weeks between when a firm gets hired, when they register (after they contact a representative on Capitol Hill on behalf of the client), and when they report fees from those clients (after the end of each quarter).