By Megan R. Wilson - 05/21/15 06:00 AM EDT
K Street’s top moneymaker, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, has strong ties to Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump decides he won't debate Bernie Sanders DNC opening platform process to public input Trump credits Sanders for attacks on Clinton MORE and her presidential campaign, putting the firm in a plum position to impact the 2016 election cycle and cement its standing among Washington lobby shops in a potential Clinton administration.
Akin Gump boasts a slew of Clinton connections, including the campaign’s treasurer, José Villarreal, who remains an active consultant for the firm.
To be sure, Akin Gump’s massive and bipartisan operation has top Republican connections, including ties to current and likely 2016 presidential candidates.
But in the firm’s Washington office alone, there are at least a half-dozen “Hillstarters” — people who have committed to bundle $27,000 each in contributions for the Hillary for America campaign, including Don Pongrace, the head of the firm’s public law and policy practice.
“I am and have been a strong supporter of Secretary Clinton as a pragmatic and decisive individual with a gift for identifying rational responses to big problems,” he said.
“We attract people as partners and associates across the firm that are attracted to law and policy, and as a result, they’re more personally engaged in politics,” he added.
Other Hillstarter bundlers include Arshi Siddiqui, a former adviser to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Scott Parven, a former board member of the Democratic Leadership Council.
Former Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), although not a Hillstarter, is also lending his support.
The activity marks a turning point for many Democrats on K Street since the last election: President Obama would not accept donations from registered lobbyists, and placed strict rules about their involvement with the White House.
Lobbyists across town were already lining up behind Clinton as early as last March, including Steve Elmendorf, president of Elmendorf | Ryan, who said at the time it wasn’t even a “close call” as to who he’d support.
Jonathan Mantz, of the mostly Republican BGR Group, served as Clinton’s national finance director during her 2008 presidential bid. He also serves as an adviser to the super-PAC Priorities USA, which was created to support Obama but has now shifted its focus on boosting Clinton.
Still, Akin Gump’s bench of Clinton supporters runs deep. The firm employs others in the Clintons’ orbit, including Vernon Jordan and Al From.
Jordan, who became close with the former first family after serving as a senior adviser and confidant to Bill ClintonBill ClintonWATCH LIVE: Bill Clinton speaks at NJ rally The Hill's 12:30 Report The Trail 2016: Interleague play MORE, now works as a senior counsel at Akin.
Meanwhile, From, who founded the Democratic Leadership Council, which was later absorbed into the Clinton Foundation, worked to get Bill Clinton elected president in 1992 and advised him during the transition into the White House. He is a consultant with the firm.
“They’re a very politically active firm that is involved in all levels of campaigns,” one senior Democratic fundraiser told The Hill about Akin Gump’s presence in Washington. “They have more partners engaged in Democratic campaigns than any other firm that I know of in the city.”
Akin Gump — and its lawyers and lobbyists — have long been active on the campaign scene. The tradition goes back to its founding in 1945 by the late Robert Strauss, once a chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Within the Democratic Party, Akin has many of the presidential bases covered, including lobbyists close to Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders blasts Trump: 'What are you afraid of?' Tech firm offers M for Trump-Sanders debate Trump decides he won't debate Bernie Sanders MORE (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who teased a possible announcement of his candidacy on Tuesday.
Some of the level of Akin Gump’s political activity and reach has to do with its size: It has 22 offices, including nine outside the United States.
The law and lobby shop has been among the top-earning K Street firms for decades. Last year, it finally ascended to No. 1, banking $35.7 million in lobbying revenue.
It represents Chevron, Amazon and its prospective drone-delivery service, AT&T, consumer credit reporting agency Equifax, the Alliance for Fair Trade with India, the American Medical Association, Boeing and the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, among many others.
Like many firms, Akin Gump has a political action committee (PAC) to donate to candidates and other committees. Its lawyers and lobbyists are also prolific givers.
Since the 1990 election cycle, the firm’s PAC and its employees have contributed more than $19.4 million to federal campaign efforts, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The figure includes attorneys throughout the firm’s offices.
So far in the two-year 2016 election cycle, that spending has exceeded $261,000.
“We’re obviously bipartisan in this effort, we’ve had to be since the beginning” of the firm, Pongrace emphasized. “We’ve got a mirror of this [Democratic support] on the other side.”
“We’ve had everything from George Bush Pioneers,” he added, speaking of individuals who bundled $100,000 for George W. Bush’s 2000 or 2004 election, in addition to “folks who worked with the administration there.”
Indeed, Akin Gump employs powerful Republican strategists, including former Reps. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) and Tom Loeffler (R-Texas) and veteran GOP lobbyist Smitty Davis.
The firm said it houses supporters of several of the Republican contenders for the White House, including Sens. Ted CruzTed CruzMcConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ Cruz holds back support for Trump with eye on abortion Trump takes victory lap over rivals' remarks MORE (R-Texas) and Marco RubioMarco RubioFla. Senate candidate bashes Rubio The Hill's 12:30 Report Rubio: 'Maybe' would run for Senate seat if 'good friend' wasn't MORE (R-Fla.).
With Election Day a year and a half down the line, most of K Street is still deciding how it will proceed — especially with a wide-open GOP field. But no matter how the races go, Akin Gump will be ready.
“Presidential politics always catches up with you, it’s just a matter of when,” Pongrace said.