K Street no longer the legendary hub of D.C. lobbying firms
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Several hundred demonstrators gathered for an "anti-K Street" protest Monday to "take on the corporate lobbyists who have a stranglehold on our democracy," even shutting down traffic at the intersection of 14th and K NW.
But the protesters might have been better off focusing on another street. Although "K Street" is virtually synonymous with the lobbying profession, most of Washington's major firms are not on K Street anymore.
As with London's newspaper-free Fleet Street, the K Street moniker lives on despite a steady exodus of major lobbying operations over the years. In fact, only one of Washington's top 20 lobbying firms -- K&L Gates -- has an official K Street address, according to the most recent round of disclosure records.
Granted, there are other major firms fronting on 19th Street, Connecticut Avenue and other streets considered part of the traditional K Street lobbying corridor. But many others, including the Podesta Group, Van Scoyoc Associates and Dutko Worldwide, are much farther east -- closer to the lawmakers who are the focus of most lobbyists' attention.
Washington's biggest lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, is at 2550 M St. NW, which is closer to Georgetown than it is to the K Street corridor. The second-ranking firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, is headquartered to the north just off Dupont Circle, while other heavy hitters are clustered around Penn Quarter or the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
"How many of the big banks are headquartered on Wall Street?" said lobbyist Tony Podesta, whose firm has never been on K Street. "These streets have a way of having political significance without having
real estate significance."
Dave Wenhold of Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies, president of the American League of Lobbyists, said the "K Street" phrase has persisted along with "Gucci Gulch" and other terms from the days when the profession first coalesced in Washington's main office area. But since then, Wenhold said, many firms in the expanding industry have chosen to locate closer to the action on Capitol Hill, particularly as revitalization projects have taken hold.
"Back in the day, that's where everybody wanted to be -- on
K Street," Wenhold said. "But these days a lot of people don't see the reason for it."
Wenhold's firm, by the way, is in Fairfax City.