Lobbyists are cashing in on Congress’ debates about how to spend trillions of dollars on coronavirus relief legislation.
New second-quarter federal lobbying reports showed top firms’ revenues up more than 25% year-over-year and dozens of new lobbying clients flowing in amid the massive coronavirus relief packages moving through Congress.
Millions of workers across the country are struggling to survive, but lobbyists are enjoying unexpected success.
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck said its revenue was up 28% over 2019’s second quarter and the firm signed 26 new clients during the quarter. At $12.9 million, Brownstein was the top-grossing federal lobbying firm in the country for the quarter.
Brownstein government relations chairman Marc Lampkin said one of the firm’s new clients is Go Live Together, a coalition that represents thousands of businesses in the live events, trade shows, and conferences realm. Mr. Lampkin said many of those businesses and other new clients did not need to reach lawmakers previously and his firm is the modern-day interpretation of what the Founding Fathers imagined for citizens looking to petition their government.
“The need for advocates in Washington has never been more necessary than in the COVID era when so many people who have come to us have been in companies or industries that have generally never come to Washington before,” Mr. Lampkin said. “But they’re in desperate need to understand how these programs work and what’s the best, fastest way to either, A: access programs that are already in place, or to tell the government the story of their needs.”
The dramatic revenue growth was not limited to a single firm. Many of the top lobbying firms in Washington saw dramatic increases in their revenues.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld reported revenue for the first half of the year 26% greater than during the same time last year.
K&L Gates government affairs counselor Darrell Conner said he was expecting a “slow” summer and fall as is typical for a presidential election year. But the pandemic triggered an “unprecedented” amount of work for his firm, and he said K&L Gates saw its second-quarter revenue up 15% over 2019’s second quarter.
“For the first half of 2020, our [Lobbying Disclosure Act] revenues were up about 9 percent compared to the first six months in 2019,” Mr. Conner said in an email. “Pretty much anything dealing with the government’s response to the coronavirus, our team was involved in it for clients — health care; PPP loan assistance; Federal Reserve funding and other economic relief; workforce support; government guidance on compliance; economic support for individual industry sectors; etc. And of course, Congress and the administration are now talking about another package.”
Some lobbying firms declined to draw connections between their revenue growth and specific coronavirus-related matters, and said that all clients are effectively coronavirus-focused now. Project On Government Oversight general counsel Scott H. Amey said the trillions of dollars of new spending naturally attracted lobbyists but it can be difficult to trace lobbyists’ influence over legislation and regulation.
“It’s difficult to match lobbying efforts to specific outcomes, but there is little doubt that D.C. connections pay dividends and they often head off transparency and oversight protections that benefit the public,” Mr. Amey said in an email.
The negotiations over a new coronavirus relief package will produce more work for lobbyists, especially those advocating for older adults.
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living said Tuesday that they want $100 billion more routed to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Provider Relief Fund to benefit nursing homes, which have been hard hit by the coronavirus.
Mr. Lamkin said his clients are primarily looking for liability protection and the government to help with parents’ child care needs in the coming months.