Lobbying activity typically slows during an election year until the fourth quarter. Leaders at the shops that posted growth attribute the modest uptick to many lobbyists lining up clients in preparation of a flurry of legislation expected to hit once the presidential election is decided in November. Some pointed to appropriations, budget and taxes as some of the major issues clients are positioning themselves for in the months leading up to the election, as Congress faces a December deadline to propose a possible alternative to sequestration ($1 trillion in federal spending cuts that could go into effect January 2013), and to decide whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year.
“The big game will be played November and December and you need to get your play into the playbook now,” said Jim Walsh of K&L Gates, which saw lobbying revenue rise about 3 percent. “It’s just a matter of being engaged early on because things will happen quickly in the end.”
Kevin O’Neill, deputy chairman of public policy at Patton Boggs, which posted a 2 percent drop, said the first quarter slide represents a continued shift in focus for firms. Many have seen work move from the legislative branch to the executive branch, where firms are doing more non-lobbying work keeping tabs on regulatory effort to implement Dodd Frank’s financial industry reforms and health care’s Affordable Care Act.
Some of the firms that posted the most dramatic drops in lobbying revenue this quarter, Cassidy & Associates and Van Scoyoc Associates, have been increasingly seeking partnerships with consulting businesses to help offset the lobbying declines.
“The more people recognize Congress is not going to have the level of accomplishments they had in the past session, the more they turn their eye to doing things with the executive branch,” O’Neill said.
Lobbying revenues at the top 10 firms dropped 5 percent overall. Here’s how firms stacked up, compared to the first quarter of 2011:
• Patton Boggs: down 2 percent from $12.4 million to $12.2 million
• Akin Gump: down 10 percent from $8.7 million to $7.9 million
• Podesta: down 6 percent from $7 million to 6.6 million
• Van Scoyoc Associates: down 14 percent from $5.7 million to $4.9 million
• Brownstein Hyatt: up 6 percent from $5.3 million to $5.6 million
• Cassidy & Associates: down 25 percent from $5.5 million to $4.1 million
• Ogilvy Government Relations: up 12 percent from $4.5 million to $5 million
• Holland & Knight: down 7 percent from $4.8 million to $4.5 million
• K&L Gates: up 3 percent from $4.6 million to $4.7 million
• Williams & Jensen: up 3 percent from $4.4 million to $4.5 million
The figures are self-reported by the firms, with the exception of Van Scoyoc Associates, which is not releasing revenues. Figures for that firm are based on Lobbying Disclosure Act filings with the Senate.