K St. quietly prepares for big GOP gains in November

Jonathan Strong Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.
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Quietly and cautiously, the lobbying world on K St. is preparing for major GOP gains on Nov. 2, eying new GOP “talent” and preparing to donate a larger percentage to Republicans.

“Two years ago, as a Republican coming off the Hill, you’d be lucky to get a position cleaning hallways. Now the vacancy light is blinking for you,” said Phil Musser, president of New Frontier Strategy, a political consulting firm.

“Everybody is starting to see the writing on the wall,” said the Republican head of a Fortune 500 company’s lobby shop. “Now it looks like the baseline is going to be 40 votes…Everyone is reassessing.”

Reports of the shifting winds are anecdotal. Additionally, a K St. veteran notes the discussion is somewhat premature because lobbying firms are mostly planning their 2011 budgets right now; it will be months before they make hiring decisions based on those budgets.

In interviews with about a dozen veteran lobbyists, sources described the shift in efficient, even clinical terms.

“There’s no downside to increasing your investment in that space,” one said about hiring lobbyists with ties to House Republicans.

Musser confirmed the reports of several others that political donations will change to reflect the number of Republicans and Democrats in the next Congress.

That’s “rule 101 in political Washington,” Musser said, “it’s like gravity.”

“Our giving reflects the makeup of the House and Senate, so if Republicans made gains it would likely change to reflect that,” said the spokeswoman for one major brand.

In 2006, when Democrats took control of both the Senate and the House for the first time in 12 years, K St. made very significant adjustments to account for the new balance of power.

Then, firms scrambled for Democratic hires, offering signing bonuses in excess of $500,000 for Democrats with significant Capitol Hill experience.

Several lobbyist sources said changes made in 2006 would limit how much K St. will need to adjust to the coming GOP wave.

“Everyone these days knows to succeed in this town you need to be assiduously bipartisan,” a gun-for-hire at one of the largest three firms in town said. Most lobbying firms decided to balance out their ties between Republicans and Democrats after 2006, a second source said.

One exception: Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, which kept its Republican character even when Democrats held the Presidency, the House and a supermajority in the Senate.

A GOP strategist said he thinks Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock will be one of the biggest winners on K St. if Republicans take control of the House on Nov. 2.

A Democratic lobbyist said Republicans “keep score” on such issues more so than Democrats. “They’re brutal,” he said.

One example of the reassessing is that Wal-Mart, which laid-off a senior GOP lobbyist at the height of the economic recession, is now on the prowl for new GOP hires.

NEXT: Will political changes hurt any major businesses?
Will the change in political fortunes hurt any major businesses? One might think Google would fall in that category. After all, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, campaigned for Obama, and the company’s employees gave very generously to him, too. Some Google people even joined the administration.

It probably won’t happen that way, though.

“Search isn’t a partisan issue. We’ve believed for a long time that it’s important to build relationships on both sides of the aisle, and we do that every day here in Washington,” said Mistique Cano, a spokeswoman for Google, noting that the company’s Political Action Committee donations aren’t lopsided towards one party or the other.

A former high-ranking GOP tech aide noted that Republicans’ political philosophy generally benefits businesses. “What are they going to do? Pass a strict regulation? That’s not their thing.”

A GOP House aide offered another reason when asked if Republicans might be hard on Google given their high-profile support for Obama. “No way. Google practically controls the Internet, you’d have to be a moron to pick a fight with them.”