Several K Street giants kick off 2024 with record revenues



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Several K Street lobbying shops posted record revenues last quarter as Congress moved massive spending bills, the Biden administration ramped up its regulatory agenda and clients set their sights on post-election policy priorities.

Federal lobbyists raked in $4.3 billion last year, according to the money in politics research nonprofit OpenSecrets, even as it looked like Congress would have its least productive session in decades.

Congress has sent President Biden just 61 bills since January 2023, according to Congress.gov, but to say nothing is being done would be a massive miscalculation, several lobbyists told The Hill.

“You think of it as a marathon, right? You don’t just step up to the starting line and start running, you train months in advance, and that’s exactly what’s happening now,” Nadeam Elshami, a policy director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and former chief of staff to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told The Hill.

Brownstein, the largest U.S. lobbying firm by revenue, brought in more than $16.2 million from Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) revenue from January through March, their best first quarter on record.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the second largest lobbying firm by revenue, also posted its strongest first quarter lobbying haul, bringing in $13.8 million between January and March.

“We expect that pace to continue in the next quarter, especially in areas that Congress must address every year: appropriations and defense. We also have seen a significant uptick in tax reform with the tax extenders debate and the looming expiration of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” said Brian Pomper, co-head of Akin’s lobbying and public policy practice.

The upcoming “tax cliff” has already begun to absorb the efforts of lawmakers and lobbyists alike. While a bipartisan tax deal easily passed the House in January, tensions are mounting in the Senate amid Republican opposition to provisions expanding the child tax credit.

While the deal, known as the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act, also includes sizable business tax credits, Republicans may be wary of moving on it before the November election. If Republicans win the White House and both chambers of Congress, they could enact their own version of the tax bill and extend Trump-era tax cuts that are set to expire next year.

The lobbying giant BGR Group posted its best quarter on record, bringing in nearly $10.9 million in LDA revenue. Loren Monroe, a principal at BGR Group, said that while “it’s easy to say Washington can’t get anything done,” Congress appropriated hundreds of billions of dollars in the last few weeks alone “after months of hard work by stakeholders inside and out of Congress.”

“And like clockwork it’s being said that nothing else will get done in Washington the rest of the year,” Monroe said. “But we’ve got our heads down working on defense authorization, data privacy, artificial intelligence guardrails, quantum technology, cannabis banking, corporate tax as well as engaging the Biden and Trump teams setting the agendas for a potential second term.”

Bruce Mehlman, the founder of Mehlman Consulting, told The Hill, “Businesses ignore Washington at their own peril.”

“While Congress appeared epically-chaotic on the outside, on the inside it got a surprising amount of work done, including a massive tax bill in the House (375 votes), a huge national security bill in the Senate (70 votes), last year’s spending (with deficit reduction and no shutdown), deep-dives into AI policy options, development of a bipartisan privacy bill that may have a chance and a lot more,” Mehlman said. 

Mehlman Consulting posted their best quarter on record, raking in nearly $7.4 million from a range of clients, including the embattled social media application TikTok. TikTok and its parent company, the China-based company ByteDance, ramped up lobbying spending to $2.7 million during the first quarter from $1.6 million the same period in 2023 as it battled a bill that would force ByteDance to divest from TikTok or face a ban in the U.S. Despite the company’s efforts, President Biden signed the bill into law this week.

Biden and big business have butted heads as his administration cracks down on corporate price gouging and junk fees ahead of the November election.

The Biden administration has been cranking out agency rules, including a credit card late fee cap from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a near-total ban on noncompete agreements passed by the Federal Trade Commission, both of which have been challenged in court by business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

While once upon a time Washington ground to a halt as elections, especially presidential elections, approached, K Street veterans told The Hill that’s just not the case anymore.

Jeff Strunk, a managing partner at Forbes Tate, told The Hill he does not think of the next few months as a “boring or dead period,” but as an opportunity to “educate the members that maybe industry is not as close with.”

“We’re talking a lot with our clients or potential clients not just about this Congress, we’re getting ready for next Congress, and starting to position ourselves to start telling our story now as opposed to waiting till after the election,” Strunk added.

While there’s no lull in the action, Stewart Verdery, CEO of Monument Advocacy, told The Hill that clients are exploring other options for getting and keeping their messages out there.

Monument Advocacy narrowly missed the top 20 chart, bringing in $3.6 million last quarter, and Verdery says there has been an emphasis on public affairs work that does not fall under the traditional lobbying umbrella, which means that revenue isn’t reflected in LDA revenue.

“I did see a pretty interesting shift in resources from some of our clients over the last three to six months of basically putting more effort into public affairs and a little bit less into lobbying. And I think the reason is that with Congress kind of two-thirds over, trying to make sure the issues stay on the radar, and that’s more of a media effort than a lobbying effort.” Stewart said.

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