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Magazine / LOBBYING AND LAW

K Street Just Keeps Growing

Total federal lobbying spending under the LDA hit $2.79 billion last year, up 7.7 percent from 2006. Starting this year, lobbyists, lobbying firms, and clients have to report twice as often-every quarter.

April 12, 2008

With a new party running Congress and new ethics rules to learn, Washington lobbyists found 2007 a year of turmoil, but not so much that it got in the way of steady-and, in some cases, whopping-earnings growth for many of K Street's top lobbying firms.

On Capitol Hill, a tax fight involving investment fund managers, a brawl over automobile fuel-economy standards, and the complexities of navigating corporate transactions were among the high-profile issues that contributed to another record year of fee income for the influence sector.

"There are more challenges than ever before at the nexus of business and public policy," says Ken Mehlman, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and the manager of President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. He cited tax reform, health care, energy, and climate change at the top of the list.

 

Total federal lobbying spending hit $2.79 billion last year, up 7.7 percent from $2.59 billion in 2006, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. The total is based on the semi-annual reports that all registered lobbyists, lobbying firms, and corporations submit to Congress under the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act. Under amendments passed in 2007, beginning this year lobbyists and firms must report twice as often-every quarter.

To compile the list of top firms, National Journal used documents provided directly by the firms as well as data from the center.

For the fifth year in a row, law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs came in at No. 1, reporting $42.5 million in LDA-related fees, an increase of 23 percent from 2006. Among its five largest clients last year were investment fund Cerberus Capital Management and the Managed Funds Association, which represents hedge funds; both clients were heavily involved in two of the most-lobbied issues in Congress. Cerberus, which owns automaker Chrysler, lobbied on the fuel-efficiency debate, and the Managed Funds Association worked to stave off new taxes on fund managers.

The No. 2 firm last year was Akin Gump, posting LDA-related fees of $32 million, up 25 percent from 2006, a jump spurred in part by legal and lobbying work, plus strategic advice on navigating Washington's regulatory environment, for client Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, one of the world's largest private equity firms, which specializes in buyout transactions. Akin Gump also represented the Private Equity Council, which, like the Managed Funds Association, fought tax proposals that would have affected the investment industry.

Representatives of both Patton Boggs and Akin Gump said their law and lobbying firms were aided by their ability to expand the scope of existing legal and regulatory work for clients into lobbying services. Pivoting from providing legal services to lobbying also helped other firms to achieve robust growth last year, including No. 11 Holland & Knight, which posted a 16 percent gain from 2006; No. 14 Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, up 23 percent; and No. 18 Covington & Burling, up 36 percent.

In contrast, several lobbying-only firms saw slower growth or declines in income as Congress increased its scrutiny of earmarks, the controversial process by which lawmakers set aside appropriations for specific projects. No. 3 Van Scoyoc Associates posted growth of 4 percent; No. 4 Cassidy & Associates experienced 1 percent growth; and No. 24 Livingston Group weathered a fee income drop of 13 percent. All three firms are known for their appropriations practices.

"The state of lobbying is good, but it could be better," says Cassidy COO Gregg Hartley. Appropriations work represents less than 50 percent of his firm's revenue, he said, adding that Cassidy has been diversifying its business into other areas. H. Stewart Van Scoyoc, president of Van Scoyoc Associates, likewise says that appropriations work is now less than 40 percent of revenues and that the firm is also diversifying into additional lines of work.

The Capitol Hill shift in power to Democrats may have affected previously all-Republican firm BGR Holding (formerly Barbour Griffith & Rogers). At No. 5 on the list, the firm experienced revenue growth of 6 percent in 2007-respectable, but below its gains in the years when Republicans controlled Congress. Last month BGR hired its first Democratic lobbyist, Michael Meehan, former chief of staff to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to launch a new public-relations practice.

The firm with truly eye-popping growth in 2007 was No. 7 Ogilvy Government Relations. Revenues jumped 51 percent as the firm received $4.5 million in fees from top client Blackstone Group, a private equity firm involved in the high-profile tax fight.

As in years past, officials at a number of lobby shops argued that rankings based on LDA filings do not give a true picture of their businesses. The reason is that an increasing number of the influence industry's services fall outside the reporting requirements of the law. Under the LDA, lobbyists must disclose only direct contacts with Capitol Hill lawmakers, senior staff, and executive branch officers.

Cassidy and other firms are increasing their business in the area of federal marketing-helping businesses navigate government contracts-which doesn't fall under disclosure rules. At Dutko Worldwide, lobbying represents about half of the No. 6 firm's revenue, says CEO Mark Irion. Dutko also provides grassroots lobbying help and representation to companies overseas, other services that aren't reported.

"Why cast your net in the exact same spot all the time?" Irion responds when asked why Dutko has been expanding into new areas.

Law and lobbying firm DLA Piper, which was tied for No. 16, posted a 22 percent drop in lobbying revenue from 2006, says partner John Merrigan, because it placed greater emphasis on legal and strategic client services that fall outside of reporting requirements. "Lobbying has just become a fraction of what we do," Merrigan says.

A newcomer to the list is No. 25 Alpine Group. Partner Greg Means attributed his firm's 13 percent growth to a combination of the shift in power to Democrats and clients' decisions to expand their contracts. "We're bipartisan, so to the extent that companies or folks were looking for lobbyists and didn't have the Democratic side covered sufficiently, [it may have] caused them to look at" Alpine, he said. - Reporting Intern Mariwan Hama-Saeed contributed research for this story. The author can be reached at bvaida@nationaljournal.com.

The Top 25 Lobbying Firms of 2007
Reported Lobbying Disclosure Act fee income, January 1 to December 31, 2007

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Lobbying Firm        Total 2007      Total 2006    %Change
                     Revenue          Revenue
1. Patton Boggs      $42,500,000      $34,550,000      23%
2. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld     
                      32,000,000       25,670,000       25
3. Van Scoyoc Associates
                      27,130,000       26,050,000        4
4. Cassidy & Associates
                      24,490,000       24,285,000        1
5. BGR Holding        22,460,000       21,180,000        6
6. Dutko Worldwide    22,452,500       21,112,515        6
7. Ogilvy Government Relations
                      22,200,000       14,660,000       51
8. Hogan & Hartson    19,030,000       17,511,574        9
9. Quinn Gillespie & Associates
                      17,980,000       17,905,000        0
10. PMA Group         16,470,132       15,925,000        3
11. Holland & Knight  16,290,000       14,050,000       16
12. Williams & Jensen 16,200,000       15,350,000        6
13. K&L Gates         13,860,000       13,355,000        4
14. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
                      13,310,000       10,800,000       23
15. Washington Council Ernst & Young
                      13,256,060       10,217,000       30
16. Carmen Group      12,880,000       11,070,000       16
16. DLA Piper         12,880,000       16,485,000      -22
18. Covington & Burling
                      12,469,512        9,160,000       36
19. Ferguson Group     1,760,500        9,794,500       20
20. Podesta Group     11,260,000       12,080,000       -7
21. Venable           10,680,000        8,480,000       26
22. Alcalde & Fay     10,500,000       10,320,000        2
23. Cornerstone Government Affairs
                      10,330,000        8,900,000       16
24. Livingston Group   9,960,000       11,490,000      -13
25. Alpine Group       9,765,000        8,620,000       13
Totals                 $432,113,704   389,020,589       11%

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Sources: Lobbying Disclosure Act filings; lobbying firms; Center for Responsive Politics

Top Clients of the Top 15 Firms
From January 1 to December 31, 2007
1 Patton Boggs
1. Mars Inc.                                    $2,300,000
2. Cerberus Capital Management                   2,140,000
3. American Association for Justice              1,320,000
4. Kidney Care Partners                            800,000
5. Bristol-Myers Squibb                            700,000
5. Managed Funds Association                       700,000

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2 Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
1. Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform     $1,180,000
2. Mortgage Insurance Companies of America       1,140,000
3. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts                       1,020,000
4. Citizens Educational Foundation                 800,000
5. Gila River Indian Community                     740,000

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3 Van Scoyoc Associates
1. Coalition of EPSCoR States                     $420,000
2. University of Alabama                           360,000
3. L.A. County Metro Transportation Authority      340,000
4. Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority             300,000
4. DuPont                                          300,000

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4 Cassidy & Associates
1. Boston University                              $960,000
2. UMass Memorial Health Care                      560,000
3. Bombardier                                      520,000
4. Alenia Aeronautica                              440,000
4. Rambus                                          440,000

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5 BGR Holding
1. Republic of China                            $1,000,000
2. Thaksin Shinawatra                              920,000
3. Alan Kilkenny                                   760,000
4. Government of Serbia                            720,000
4. Kurdistan Regional Government                   720,000

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6 Dutko Worldwide
1. Erickson Retirement Communities                $370,000
2. Petroleos De Venezuela SA                       355,000
3. Americans for Democracy                         335,000
4. R/V Moynihan Station Development                310,000
5. Global Demandwidth                              280,000
5. ProtectingAmerica.Org                           280,000

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7 Ogilvy Government Relations
1. Blackstone Group                             $4,500,000
2. Verizon Communications                        1,160,000
3. American International Group                    760,000
4. Carlyle Group                                   540,000
5. Poker Players Alliance                          480,000

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8 Hogan & Hartson
1. Nissan North America                         $2,700,000
2. FM Policy Focus                               1,660,000
3. Berkshire Hathaway                              780,000
4. Intrepid Mining                                 540,000
4. TAP Pharmaceutical Products                     540,000

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9 Quinn Gillespie & Associates
1. Verizon Communications                         $960,000
2. Cemex USA                                       760,000
3. PricewaterhouseCoopers                          600,000
4. Delta Airlines                                  580,000
5. Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care          560,000
5. State Farm Insurance                            560,000

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10 PMA Group
1. EDO                                            $600,000
2. DRS Technologies                                560,000
3. L-3 Communications                              480,000
4. Parametric Technology                           440,000
4. PPG Industries                                  440,000

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11 Holland & Knight
1. St. Regis Mohawk Tribe                         $460,000
2. Jicarilla Apache Tribe                          420,000
3. Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians               380,000
4. Council of Chief State School Officers          360,000
5. American Chemistry Council                      320,000
5. Amscot Financial                                320,000
5. Hartford Insurance                              320,000

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12 Williams & Jensen
1. Owens-Illinois                                 $740,000
2. OGE Energy                                      480,000
3. Time Warner                                     440,000
4. American Council of Life Insurers               360,000
5. Enbridge Pipelines/
   Lakehead Pipeline Partners                      340,000
5. International Speedway                          340,000
5. Pyramid Companies                               340,000

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13 K&L Gates
1. Pitney Bowes                                 $1,040,000
2. RenaissanceRe Holdings                          520,000
3. Star Cruises                                    500,000
4. Overseas Shipholding Group                      440,000
5. Fei Co.                                         380,000

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14 Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
1. Alliance for Investment Transparency           $680,000
2. National Cable & Telecommunications Assn.       520,000
3. Terrastar Networks                              480,000
4. Citadel Investment Group                        440,000
4. Mobile Satellite Ventures                       440,000

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15 Washington Council Ernst & Young
1. General Electric                               $680,000
2. Merrill Lynch                                   600,000
3. Reynolds American                               360,000
4. Fortress Investment Group                       340,000
5. Association of American Railroads               320,000
5. Carrix                                          320,000
5. Citigroup                                       320,000
5. Ford                                            320,000
5. Johnson & Johnson                               320,000
5. Securities Industry Association                 320,000

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