At K Street’s No. 1 lobby shop, ties to Clinton run deep

At K Street’s No. 1 lobby shop, ties to Clinton run deep

K Street’s top moneymaker, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, has strong ties to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support 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.

“It’s obvious that political connections are hugely important in the lobbying game, and certainly Akin has positioned themselves nicely, should Hillary get the Democratic nomination and then become president,” said Ivan Adler, a principal at The McCormick Group.

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 ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Clip shows Larry David and Bernie Sanders reacting after discovering they're related For now, Trump dossier creates more questions than answers 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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets MORE (R-Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers 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.