On November 2, when the political power dynamic shifted and Republicans took back the House and narrowed the gap in the Senate, a simultaneous shift occurred among the people who seek to have influence over congressional power players. In the aftermath of the midterm elections, there are a number of lobbying firms whose connections and experience would seem to put them in a position of extraordinary influence in the coming Congress. The Daily Caller spoke to some of these firms about their new found influence. Here’s what we learned from some top firms.
Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Inc.
As would seem obvious, lobbyists are more popular when their party is in power. “As a bipartisan firm we’ve stayed quite busy these past two years,” said Bruce Mehlman, co-founder of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Inc., “but there’s no doubt our Republicans’ phones are ringing a lot more in November than they were in October.”
Mehlman’s firm is tremendously plugged into the House. He himself served as general counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee from 1996 to 1999, and was the policy director for the House Republican Conference under former Republican Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts.
Elise Finley Pickering, another member of the firm, was Arizona Republican Rep. John Shadegg’s chief of staff, the staff director for the Republican Policy Committee, and congressional liaison to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004 for all the Republicans in the House. For dealing with this year’s hot topic of health care, MVC has Dean Rosen, who is a former Ways and Means Committee health care staffer.
On the Senate side, the firm has Alex Vogel, who was the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s general counsel, and also served as the policy director for former Republican Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, who was Senate majority leader at that time.
Though Republican lobbyists appear to have an edge in the upcoming year, Mehlman touts the benefits of being a bipartisan firm. “I’ve never met a client that only wanted Republican or Democratic votes,” he told TheDC, “and bipartisan firms with strong partisans on both sides still offer a complete solution to most policy changes.
Fierce & Isakowitz
Fierce & Isakowitz, another lobbying firm, took a different strategy. The lobbying shop has stayed entirely Republican since its founding, sticking with GOP through thick and thin. With strong ties to incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who will serve as majority whip in the next Congress, their party loyalty looks like it will pay off in the next Congress.
Though the last few years have been rough for Republicans, Fierce & Isakowitz hasn’t felt the heat. Though they may not offer the “complete solution” of a bipartisan firm, clients often pair them with a Democratic lobbying firm to cover all the bases. In some cases, their partisan make up has inspired loyalty, as their business partners know that they can be trusted not to tell secrets to the other side.
Clark Lytle & Geduldig
Clark Lytle & Geduldig is another all Republican lobbying firm that, despite all the hard years, never tried to change its stripes. The group has particularly strong connections in the House, and will benefit from standing by Republicans when they were down and out. People at the firm have relationships with the House leadership, including Speaker-to-be John Boehner of Ohio, Cantor, as well as Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the newly elected chair of the House Republican Conference.
Sam Geduldig, one of the partners, served as Boehner’s political director from 1997 to 2000, and has worked with others, including former Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Oxley and Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, who will join the Senate in January. The other two partners, Gary Lytle and Steve Clark, have backgrounds in corporate lobbying.
The firm recently began a strategic affiliation with Deborah Pryce, a former Ohio Republican representative who became the highest-ranking GOP female to ever serve in Congress. When Pryce left the House, she was the chair of the Republican Conference, leaving her with close ties to the House leadership and the soon-to-be chairmen of committees and subcommittees.
HDMK is another firm who could become a force in the upcoming Congress due to its very strong ties to Boehner through two partners in the firm: Terry Holt, who was formerly Boehner’s spokesperson, and Chad Kolton, who served as deputy press secretary to the House Republican Conference when Boehner was its chair.
“We’re very close to his office,” partner Trent Duffy said. “To the extent that that is valuable in this town, that’s certainly something that we have now that we didn’t two and a half weeks ago.”
Duffy describes HDMK as “principally a PR firm,” but says the game is changing. When the Democrats controlled everything, “the message was aimed all in one direction. Now there’s a different voice, and a different set of messages, and a different set of priorities that the majority of the House is going to be carrying out,” Duffy said. “So that’s going to demand a new set of skill sets, capabilities and experience that firms like us have.”
“Representation is something that we might do a little bit more now that we have greater access,” Duffy concluded.
Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney
But it’s not all about access, said Scott Baker of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, though his firm has plenty. “This is going to be a little bit less about who you know,” Baker said, “because nobody’s cutting up the pie. The pie is shrinking or shrunk to almost nothing…So you’re going to need to be a student of government because there is going to need to be a lot of things done that have never been done before.”
The next Congress, he said, is going to have to make “tough policy decisions,” like “selling assets, cutting programs that were sacred cows.”
“A lot of us have spent time in government before,” he said. “So we think we can contribute in these decisions, not just in getting into the door.”
Baker himself served as secretary of legislative affairs for former Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who later served as the first Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
Quinn Gillespie & Associates
Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a bipartisan lobbying firm, also has a former Boehner staffer, Marc Lampkin, who served as general counsel to Boehner when he was chair of the House Republican Conference. Lampkin is in an enviable position now, but he insists that that alone is not enough to make a lobbying firm successful.
“The firms that are going to be successful are going to be those firms that have strong ties to the Republicans in the House, and a bipartisan force in the Senate,” he said, “because you’re going to have to work with both sides to forge alliances in the Senate.”
If that is so, Quinn Gillespie has the players to do just that. When dealing with the House, the firm has Lampkin with his relationship with Boehner, along with John Feehery, who has worked for former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois, among others. Also on the team is Kevin Kayes, who served as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s general counsel, as well as David Hoppe, former Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott’s last chief of staff. Hoppe also served as the first chief of staff for Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats, who left the Senate in 1999 but was just reelected back to the world’s greatest deliberative body on Nov. 2.