Lobbyists cashing in on ties to new House committee chairmen

The post-election shake-up on House committees has enhanced the brands of lobbyists who are considered close to the new leaders. 

Several House committees that are closely watched by industry will see changes at the top, most notably the Financial Services, Judiciary and Transportation panels.

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The chairmen of those three committees all have a network of support on K Street to which they turn for advice and counsel — and that can mean more clients and more fees for the lobbyists who are known to be in the inner circle.

Jeff Loveng said business with his lobby firm has picked up since his former boss, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), became the next chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

“The short answer is it already has,” said Loveng, who is now principal and CEO of Vandor Strategies. “There are just so many things that have to be done, and I was his chief of staff for so long. I know the committee. I know the process. ... It’s my backyard, so to speak.” 

Here’s a rundown of the lobbyists said to have close ties to the new chairmen: 

Financial Services Committee

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is expected to be an aggressive chairman when he takes over the Financial Services Committee next year. Several lobbyists said he would be a check on regulation stemming from the Dodd-Frank law and an advocate for reform of government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac.

“It’s clear that there are some things that aren’t working. The question is whether the industry can find bipartisan support to change those things, which has been the tradition in banking legislation,” said Wayne Abernathy, executive vice president for financial institutions policy at the American Bankers Association.

Abernathy is one of a few lobbyists who are considered close to Hensarling, a former aide to ex-Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) who has served five terms in the House. Lobbyists say several former Gramm aides who are now on K Street remain close to Hensarling.

Two of those former Gramm aides have their own firms: Jay Velasquez with the Velasquez Group and Mike Solon of Capitol Legistics.

Also considered close to Hensarling are John Savercool of UBS and Dee Buchanan of Ogilvy Government Relations, who was chief of staff for the House Republican Conference under Hensarling before heading to the private sector earlier this year.

“[Hensarling] has an extensive political network who has supported his efforts while in Congress. It’s just a small group for his closest advisers,” said a Republican lobbyist. “The network is built from your staff. He just hasn’t had a lot of his staff who choose to go downtown and lobby.” 

Judiciary Committee

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) will take charge of the House Judiciary Committee next Congress, a panel that has become increasingly important to big business with its oversight over immigration and issues key to the tech world.

“They will drive the debate on a number of hot topics that Congress will address — legal reform, immigration, intellectual property, satellite licensing and patents,” said Elizabeth Frazee, a co-founding partner of TwinLogic Strategies. “Goodlatte is known for bringing parties together around the table and getting to a deal. They are really going to move forward on a number of these issues.”

Frazee, a former legislative director and counsel to Goodlatte, is considered close to the Virginia Republican. Other lobbyists said to be part of his network include several former aides to the Judiciary Committee.

Along with Frazee, lobbyists with ties to Goodlatte include Carl Thorsen of Thorsen French Advocacy; Will Moschella of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck; and Sean McLaughlin of Podesta Group.

Lobbyists also mentioned Mitch Glazier of the Recording Industry Association of America and Joseph Gibson of the Gibson Group as being close to Goodlatte.

Frazee said she has seen interest in her firm grow since Goodlatte was awarded the Judiciary gavel.

“We are having a lot of conversations right now and we are doing a lot of outreach right now, which is fine because it’s great to see people interested in the Judiciary Committee,” Frazee said. “We are always in the market for great clients with interesting issues.” 

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Shuster will be the new chairman of the Transportation Committee and will have considerable sway over legislation dealing with the nation’s infrastructure.

Loveng estimates the panel will begin work on a number of huge pieces of legislation in the next several years — including a highway bill, a water-resources bill and reauthorizations for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The committee is important because it has a fairly large jurisdiction — it covers the entire infrastructure system of the United States. That is a large part of the economy,” Loveng said.

Shuster’s relationships on K Street span two generations, as some lobbyists around town once worked for his father, former Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.). 

Some of those lobbyists include Mike Rock with Union Pacific; Jack Schenendorf of Covington & Burling; and Darrell Wilson of Norfolk Southern Corp. 

Other names mentioned as being close to Shuster included Alex Mistri, another former chief of staff who is now at the Glover Park Group; Nick Calio, who leads Airlines for America; and Jeff Shoaf at the Associated General Contractors of America.