Lobbyists jockey for favored status with top House Republicans

Kathryn Lehman is not making it a secret that she used to work for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

“Well, I’ve never been shy about the fact that I worked for the House Republican leadership,” said Lehman, a partner at Holland & Knight who formerly worked as an aide for several GOP leaders, including ex-Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.). 

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“And clearly this is no time to be shy about that fact. I’ve been through the good times and the bad times as a House Republican — so yes, I’m telling people about my relationships.”

Lehman is one of many GOP lobbyists, most of them former Republican leadership aides, who stand to benefit from their party’s takeover of the House. 

After two years of Democratic dominance in Washington, companies and trade associations are now likely to readjust their lobbying rosters to reflect the new GOP-controlled House.

“Whoever hires lobbyists, they are taking an inventory of who they have now and what working relationships they have with people on the Hill. They are figuring out what their needs are post-election,” said one Republican lobbyist.

Aside from Lehman, former leadership aides who could see their stock rise include Susan Hirschmann of Williams & Jensen, Dan Meyer of the Duberstein Group, John Feehery with Quinn Gillespie & Associates, Sam Geduldig at Clark, Lytle & Geduldig, Mark Isakowitz of Fierce, Isakowitz and Blalock and Drew Maloney of Ogilvy Government Relations.

“Will it bring more business? My sense is that companies will be looking to adjust their consultant mix to have a greater strategic focus on House Republicans, so I am reaching out to those folks — and hopefully they will be reaching out to me,” Lehman joked. 

Here’s a look at some of the incoming GOP chairmen in the House, and who could benefit on K Street. 

Ways and Means 

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is expected to lead the Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax and trade policy and has oversight of Medicare. 

Those close to Camp include Jeff McMillen, a former committee staff director who is now a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, as well as former Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), the ranking member of the committee in the 109th Congress. He’s now with Capitol Counsel. 

Another former member who worked with Camp on the panel is Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), now at Nixon Peabody. 

Former aides to Camp now working on K Street including Christopher Wenk, a trade expert at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Joanna Foust, a lobbyist for Daimler/Mercedes-Benz USA. Behrends Foster, another Camp aide, has just co-founded his own lobby shop, Bluestone Strategies.

Agriculture

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) is likely to be the next chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. 

Lucas will have a big role to play, since the current farm bill expires in 2012. Farming interests will see the lawmaker as a check on the Obama administration’s calls for farm subsidy cuts and proposed environmental regulations, though Republicans may also feel pressure to reduce farm spending. 

“He did not have to learn about ag. He grew up ag,” one Republican lobbyist said of Lucas. “I suspect he will spend an enormous amount of time on oversight because of these concerns that production agriculture have about increased regulation, whether it is from EPA or [the Agriculture Department] or somewhere else.”

Lobbyists considered close to Lucas include Tim Sanders, a former House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee clerk and staff director now at Cornerstone Government Affairs; John Bode with Olsson Frank Weeda; Colin Woodall, who lobbies for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association; Chandler Keys, a lobbyist for JBS USA, a multinational beef and pork processor; and Randy Russell, a former Reagan Agriculture Department chief of staff at Russell Baron.

Transportation

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) will likely be in charge of writing a new surface transportation reauthorization bill as chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Todd Hauptli of the American Association of Airport Executives is considered close to Mica, as is former Mica aide Sharon Pinkerton, now with the Air Transport Association. 

Other lobbyists who have a good working relationship with the incoming chairman include David Whitestone, a partner at Holland & Knight, and Wally Burnett of Denny Miller Associates. 

Armed Services

Defense policy will be a key area for K Street as the administration and Congress debate spending cuts to the Pentagon’s budget.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) will likely be at the center of that debate as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. 

Lobbyists with a good working relationship with the new chairman include Michael Herson, president of American Defense International; Bart Roper, a reportedly ferocious fundraiser who works for California-based General Atomics; and Douglas Ritter, a lobbyist for General Dynamics. Larry Duncan, the treasurer of Lockheed Martin’s political action committee, has a good working relationship with McKeon. The defense giant has a plant in McKeon’s district.

Lobbyists are keeping a close eye on who will end up taking charge of some other influential panels, including the Appropriations and Energy and Commerce committees. GOP lawmakers are competing for those posts.

Roxana Tiron contributed to this article