“You can monitor [competitors] on a daily basis but what clients really want to know is what they’re going to do next so they can anticipate it,” Berkowitz said. “We’re building our model to help us learn how activist groups and competitive companies tend to operate in the public affairs space, and use that information to anticipate what they’re likely to do next.”
The move underscores a shift in the influence industry as firms look for ways to add data-based competitive intelligence to traditional shoe-leather lobbying services. Berkowitz views his role as supplying lobbyists with the information they need to make their case to policymakers and the public.
“They need the fuel we give them,” he said. “They need to walk to the Hill with something. The public relations folks need stuff for the website. We help with that.”
Berkowitz, who was Rudy Giuliani’s research director during the former New York City mayor’s 2008 presidential bid, plans to double his current team of five by mid-2016.
About 60 percent of the firm’s business comes from trade associations and corporations, including pharmaceutical manufacturers and energy companies, looking to gain an upper hand in legislative and regulatory fights. The remaining 40 percent comes from advocacy groups, political campaigns, super PACs and donor advisory groups.
“People want to know more about who they’re up against in legislative and regulatory debates, they want to understand the real motivations, who’s funding their opposition,” Berkowitz said.
During the 2014 election cycle, the firm was tapped by the Republican Governors Association to do ten races — including the reelection campaigns of Maine Gov. Paul LaPage (R) and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R)— and the campaigns of Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).
Berkowitz worked at the RNC on and off between 1998 and 2010, most recently as research director, overseeing all initiatives including opposition and policy research. Perhaps most notably, he was part of the team that, during the 2004 presidential election, worked to try to discredit Democratic candidate John Kerry. They pored through Kerry’s voting record and cited his opposition to funding for U.S. troops, which were later used in a critical ad, paid for by supporters of George W. Bush.