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Top Lobbyists 2015: Grassroots

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In a town where access equals power, an army of lobbyists thousands strong battles daily to help shape virtually every piece of legislation introduced in Congress and policy decision handed down by the federal government.

But only a select few have earned a spot on The Hill’s Top Lobbyists list.

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Those named to this year’s list have climbed to the top of their profession, demonstrating an ability to influence Washington’s power brokers on behalf of the interest groups, corporations and industries they represent.

Some hail from D.C.-based trade groups, which allow businesses across the country to present a unified front at the capital. 

Others are advocates who rely on grassroots organizing to amplify their messages above the din of countless voices vying for attention.

For corporate lobbyists, a singular focus can translate to expertise on many of the top economic issues facing Washington.

And then there are the hired guns, who’ve proven an ability to shape the agenda for a broad array of clients.

Not all of those named to this year’s Top Lobbyists list are formally registered as lobbyists. We use the term broadly here, so as to encompass a larger picture of Washington’s influence industry. While not everyone listed on these pages fits the traditional K Street mold, they all have demonstrated a knack for making things happen.

Today: Top lobbyists from associations and grassroots groups. Coming tomorrow: Top corporate lobbyists and hired guns. 

Anna Aurilio, Environment America
Aurilio heads the D.C. office for Environment America, guiding the growing group’s activism on renewable energy, clean water and climate policy.

Matt Bennett, Third Way
The centrist think tank supports the White House’s efforts on expanded trade, the Iran nuclear deal, reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and gay marriage 

Christopher Shelton, Communications Workers of America
Shelton, who was elected president of the union this summer, leads a group that is willing to spar with telecom giants over their treatment of workers.

Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group
Cook wields significant influence on environmental policy in Washington, working this year to push senators away from a Republican-backed chemical safety bill and toward a Democratic alternative.

Chris Cox, National Rifle Association
The powerful NRA has ramped up its defense of the Second Amendment under Cox’s leadership as pressure grows from gun control groups to expand background checks following a series of high-profile mass shootings. 

Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense
Ellis has spent years speaking out against the budget deficit and government bloat in all its forms.

Lily Eskelsen García, National Education Association
Leading the nation’s largest teachers union, Eskelsen García has been a leading critic of standardized tests that, teachers argue, take away from classroom learning time.

Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers
The union group’s international president has been focused on convincing Congress to reject an international trade agreement between the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim countries. 

David Goldston and Scott Slesinger, Natural Resources Defense Council
As the NRDC’s government affairs and legislative directors, respectively, Goldston and Slesinger have been instrumental in rebutting the GOP-led Congress’s aggression toward Obama administration environmental regulations.

Bradley Gordon, American Israel Public Affairs Committee
AIPAC is still smarting from the Iran nuclear deal, but the lobbying powerhouse nevertheless remains a force to be reckoned with.

Wade Henderson, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is composed of more than 200 national organizations and has made its name as a vocal advocate on a broad range of civil rights issues.

Mary Kay Henry, Service Employees International Union
As the head of one of the most powerful public sector unions, Henry is a driving force behind the push to raise the federal minimum wage.

Craig Holman, Public Citizen
Holman works tirelessly on issues including corporate political disclosure, reforming open records law and proposed arbitration rules.

Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund
The EDF has grown dramatically under nearly three decades of leadership from Krupp. The group’s $130 million annual budget and 1 million-strong membership make it a heavy hitter in the green activism space. 

Nancy LeaMond, AARP
As executive vice president of the seniors lobby, LeaMond has made protecting Medicare beneficiaries from increasing premiums and high deductibles a top priority.

Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First
Massimino and her staff have been active on a series of global and domestic human rights issues, such as pushing for the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and rooting out systems that support human trafficking.

Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center
The organization is pushing hard to find bipartisan solutions to campaign finance reform.

Bill McKibben and May Boeve, 350.org
Co-founded by McKibben and led today by Boeve, 350.org has become a leading source of grassroots climate activism, pushing presidential candidates across the political spectrum to take positions on issues important to environmentalists.

Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. Public Interest Research Group
From identity theft and product safety to banking and privacy, U.S. PIRG’s program director is a leading voice on a number of consumer issues.

Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World
Mitchell is a former top adviser to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and now pushes to reduce global hunger as Bread for the World’s director of government relations.

Michael Macleod-Ball, American Civil Liberties Union
Macleod-Ball is part of a major push for criminal justice and sentencing reforms.  

Matthew Myers, Campaign for ­Tobacco-Free Kids
Pushing the Food and Drug Administration to finalize first-ever regulations for electronic cigarettes has been a priority for Myers, president of the group created to keep kids from smoking. 

Michael Needham, Heritage Action for America
Needham’s group has regularly pulled Republicans to the right, and that conservative charge helped stoke the dramatic shake-up at the top of House leadership.

Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Norquist’s no-new-taxes pledge is a mainstay in Washington and grabs extra attention during presidential campaign season, when many GOP candidates covet his signoff on their fiscal proposals.

Tim Phillips, Americans for Prosperity
Backed by industrial brothers Charles and David Koch, Phillips’s group was a major spender when Republicans won big in the 2014 midterm elections and looks to make an even bigger splash in the 2016 race for the White House.

Melinda Pierce, Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is one of the nation’s leading green advocacy groups, and Pierce, its legislative director, helps set the agenda on climate change and the protection of air, water and public lands.

Ron Pollack, Families USA
Pollack, a fierce fierce advocate for ObamaCare as it weathered another Supreme Court challenge, is now pushing for a Medicaid expansion.

Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Rieckhoff is a leading advocate for VA reform, combating veteran suicide, improving services for female veterans and defending veterans’ education benefits.  

Andrew Roth, Club for Growth
The conservative group backed the White House on trade promotion authority, is opposing attempts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and is pushing to keep federal spending caps.

Lee Saunders, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Saunders, who represents 1.6 million public sector workers, has called on Washington to address income inequality and pushed for higher wages, better overtime and paid sick leave protections.

Tom Schatz, Citizens Against Government Waste
In the first year of the GOP-controlled Congress, Schatz has piled on the pressure for lawmakers to take action against exploding national debt.

Richard Trumka, Thea Lee, and Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO
The nation’s most powerful labor federation has praised the Obama administration’s attempts to update decades-old labor law in America but criticized its handling of the Trans--Pacific -Partnership, warning the trade deal could undermine the American workforce. 

Daniel Weiss, League of Conservation Voters
In his first election cycle at the helm of the LCV’s campaign operations, the group spent more than $19 million in 2014, setting itself up to be a major player in the 2016 race.

Dennis Williams, United Auto Workers
Williams became president of the UAW last year and had worked to help negotiate a new contract between the influential union and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. 

Dylan Williams, J Street
Williams and his crew took on the tough job this summer of defending President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and helped convince enough congressional Democrats to keep the pact alive on Capitol Hill.  

Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21
Wertheimer is a firebrand working to reduce the amount of money in politics.