K St. revenues rebound while congressional activity grows

K St. revenues rebound while congressional activity grows

Speaking to The Hill, Mark Irion, the CEO of Dutko Worldwide, described 2009 as a “challenge” to the lobbying industry.

“The economy has put huge pressure on our clients,” he said. His firm reported earning $4.8 million in the third quarter, compared to the $5.03 million it took in during the same period a year ago.

Still, Irion said business from healthcare, environment, education and telecommunications practices was beginning to pick up from the previous two quarters of 2009 as Congress moves forward on a number of policy fronts.

Firms were required to report their third-quarter lobbying revenue totals by midnight Tuesday. By press time, The Hill had collected totals from 21 firms.

According to the preliminary results, Patton Boggs will again set the pace in terms of lobbying revenues.

The firm reported earning $10.8 million over the past three months from more than 310 clients.

“We saw some pretty big pieces of legislation moving through Congress on healthcare, financial services, cap-and-trade,” said James Christian, a partner at Patton Boggs. “There is a lot of activity going on.”

Like other firms on K Street, Patton Boggs started 2009 slowly. It reported revenues of $8.5 million during the first quarter of 2009, compared to the $10.5 million it reported during the first three months of 2008.

But now Christian says lobbying revenues in 2009 should outpace earnings in 2008.

Other prominent shops rebounded from earlier in the year when corporations and trade associations pulled back on their lobbying spending, although in some cases earnings were off from 2008.

“During the first quarter, clients were definitely tightening their belts. Each quarter you begin to see more and more of a change. Beginning in June, you have more congressional activity than there had been during the first part of the year,” said Smitty Davis, a partner at Akin Gump.

Akin Gump reported revenues of $7.6 million for the third quarter.

The Podesta Group and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck reported the highest earnings growth from lobbying, according to the analysis.

Podesta reported lobbying revenues of $6.9 million, up 60 percent from its 2008 third-quarter total. Brownstein, meanwhile, took in $6.2 million from lobbying, a 55 percent growth over the same quarter a year ago.

“With the flurry of legislative and regulatory activity related to healthcare, the financial industry and climate change, we have seen an influx of work in our office, allowing us to continue to buck the downward economic trend,” said Al Mottur, managing partner of Brownstein’s Washington office, in a statement.

Some firms continued to struggle, however, relative to their performance in previous quarters.

Quinn Gillespie & Associates, for example, reported third-quarter revenues of $3.4 million, a decline of 13 percent from the same period a year ago. But Jack Quinn, the firm’s co-founder, said business appeared to be improving.

“We’ve picked up a number of clients this year, and I detect a clear uptick in the number of requests for proposals,” Quinn said. “I am optimistic about the prospects for a stronger 2010.”

A number of firms said sluggish lobbying revenues were balanced by higher revenues in other practice areas, like federal marketing, regulatory and congressional investigation work, that aren’t reported under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

But some lobbyists expected revenues from advocacy work to remain flat unless the economy improves significantly.

“Corporate clients look for ways to control costs, and we are a controllable cost for them,” said J. Steven Hart, who directs the lobbying practice at Williams & Jensen.

Roxana Tiron contributed to this article.