Democrats Benefiting From Post-Election Lobby Boom
Friday, November 14, 2008
Barack Obama spent much of his presidential campaign decrying the influence of Washington lobbyists. In the 10 days since he was elected, he already has had an impact: He has touched off a mini-boom on K Street.
Top lobbying firms are gearing up to handle increased demand from corporate clients who fear that the Obama administration will expand its regulatory reach and target them for tax increases. Some firms, such as Patton Boggs, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Alston & Bird, are also preparing for new business resulting from the ongoing effort to stabilize the economy.
And who is cashing in on this boom? Democrats who supported Obama, such as Jaime R. Harrison.
Harrison helped mobilize voter turnout for Obama in South Carolina, and for the past two years he directed floor operations for House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) -- credentials that made him a sought-after addition to firms looking for an edge in a new administration.
"I built a lot of strong relationships with members, as well as their staff, and some of my very best friends worked on the campaign," Harrison said. He will start with the Podesta Group next week.
For some Republicans, this is bad news. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Comcast have recently replaced Republicans in top corporate lobbying posts with Democrats. But most Republicans, especially prominent ones, profess little concern about Obama's desire to shake up the culture in Washington, or seem chastened by strict new rules aimed at weakening their influence.
"Barack Obama campaigned on change. Well, change is good for the lobbying business," said Ed Rogers, who was an aide to President Ronald Reagan and whose firm has represented such clients as Citigroup, Pfizer and Raytheon. "People will need the expertise and guidance more in the next year than they have in the last five."
Many of the issues Obama has expressed an interest in tackling early, such as health-care policy, energy and taxes, have broad implications for some of the lobbying world's most free-spending corporate clients. Patrick Von Bargen, a former chief of staff to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and aide to William Donaldson, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said he joined Quinn Gillespie this month with the expectation that his knowledge of clean energy issues would be a valued commodity.
"People who have labored in Democratic vineyards for years are familiar with the people involved, but also with the substantive issues, and how Democrats approach those issues," he said.
The shadow transition on K Street really began two years ago, when Democrats won control of Congress. For more than a decade, Republican-controlled lobbying firms had the exclusive ear of GOP lawmakers, and the industry worked in close contact with congressional leaders to develop policy and control the political agenda.
Laura Sheehan, who recently became vice president of marketing and communications for the American Gas Association, had been policy director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a top aide to Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.).
"After the last election, when the House flipped, I got three to four serious job inquiries on election night just because of my party background," she said. She did not take any of those positions, but said the phenomenon has been compounded this year.