Going Left on K Street
What's more, Democrats in general are feeling upbeat about their prospects as lobbyists these days. Fred Hatfield, chief of staff to Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), is looking for work since Breaux is retiring. "I haven't noticed a great problem," he said. "From my perspective, there's no lack of interest."
Republicans are still being retained as senior lobbyists in impressive numbers and for an obvious reason: The House, Senate and White House are run by Republicans. Gaining access to them is pivotal to the success of any legislative or regulatory campaign. The GOP-leaning National Association of Manufacturers just named a Republican former governor of Michigan, John M. Engler, as its new president.
But with Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) running neck and neck with President Bush in most polls and with the outlook for the Senate a tossup, a wide range of interest groups are filling some of their lobbying and public relations openings with Democrats -- just in case the center of influence switches.
"There is some bet-hedging going on that wasn't going on a year and a half ago," said Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. of Patton Boggs LLP, one of Washington's largest lobbying-law firms.
There are a variety of theories for this new hiring pattern. One is that no matter who wins the White House, the Senate will likely be controlled by so narrow a majority that both Republicans and Democrats will be needed to pass any legislation. Since Republicans have been the favored hires for so long, lobbying groups and firms are adding Democrats to make sure they have access on both sides of the aisle.
"The natural tendency [of lobbying firms] is to be bipartisan," said Joel Jankowsky, who heads the lobbying practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. So lately, he said, "there's a balancing going on."
Other lobbyists say the pace of hiring has slowed in general. Uncertainty about the election's outcome is the primary reason. "There's been a general cooling off," said Mark Isakowitz, president of the fast-growing GOP lobbying firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock. "Some people are waiting until after the election and will staff up accordingly."
"There are a lot more people looking [for work as lobbyists] than there are people willing to hire," agreed Fleming of the Equipment Leasing Association. Many of his fellow association chieftains, he said, "want to wait and see what kind of government will be coming in, so [they] are waiting until after the election."
"Everybody is very conscious of the fact that the Democratic outlook is better than it was seven or eight months ago," he added.
But proponents of the K Street Project don't see the same signs. The project "is alive and well and even spreading to the states," Norquist said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Dan Glickman, a Democratic former congressman and agriculture secretary, is taking over as president of the Motion Picture Association of America. Grover G. Norquist, a GOP activist, called the appointment "a studied insult."
(Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)