The best on K Street

Every spring, The Hill highlights Washington’s top lobbyists. The list is determined through conversations with members of Congress, key aides, and lobbyists themselves.
The lobbying industry is being scrutinized more than ever in the wake of K Street scandals, which have triggered Congress to pursue lobbying reform legislation.
Today, we present interest group and association lobbyists. Next Wednesday, we will unveil our top corporate lobbyists and “hired guns.”

Top interest-group Lobbyists

Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice The Senate eventually confirmed both John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, but Aron’s group was a constant thorn in the GOP’s side during both fights, as well as Harriet Miers’s botched bid. Aron, who cut her teeth helping to bring down Robert Bork in the 1980s, is an unparalleled player in the judicial confirmation game.

Keith Ashdown, Taxpayers for Common Sense The always-alert Ashdown is quick to point out waste in government, from skyrocketing earmarks in defense appropriations to the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska.

Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen This watchdog group has had plenty of fodder lately: Congress has been buffeted by ethics scandals, Wal-Mart has been targeted for how it treats its workers and the drug industry has had to answer more questions about cost and safety.

Chris Cox, National Rifle Association Cox, known for his blunt, no-nonsense style, led his association to victory last year when President Bush signed a law giving gun manufacturers protection from liability. Cox and colleague Chuck Cunningham are potent forces on the Hill.

Brad Gordon, American Israel Public Affairs Committee The oft-secretive AIPAC rejiggered its team after two employees were indicted, consolidating the executive and legislative lobbying arms into a unified effort with Gordon as co-chief. He has extensive Hill experience with both Republican and Democratic members.

C. Boyden Gray, Committee for Justice Longtime GOP strategist Gray, along with Executive Director Sean Rushton, helped organize the business community around Bush’s Supreme Court picks. Gray also gets points for being among a bipartisan group pushing for federal policies to support renewable fuels.

Connie Mackey, Family Research Council Mackey and her cohorts at the FRC played a huge role in cementing President Bush’s legacy on the Supreme Court. Election-year fights on gay marriage and embryonic-stem-cell research may be on the horizon.

Ralph Neas, People for the American Way Neas went all out to defeat Bush’s Supreme Court nominees. Those efforts failed to gain traction, but Neas is still a major player in the constant battles on judicial nominees.

Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform The downfall of his good friend Jack Abramoff, whose plea deal threatens to ensnare Norquist and his vast lobbying network, has kept the GOP superlobbyist on his toes this year. Still, on everything from grassroots lobbying limits to the line-item veto, Norquist speaks and Republicans listen.

Bill Novelli, AARP This perennial heavyweight won big against the White House on Social Security last year. Still, his tenure could be measured against the success of the Medicare drug benefit, which Novelli pushed AARP to endorse.

Travis Plunkett, Consumer Federation of America The group’s 300-strong member nonprofit organizations boast a total membership topping 50 million people, and Plunkett is their outspoken voice on the Hill. He is a must-have witness on congressional panels.

Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO Samuel is the big union’s point man on a multitude of issues, from asbestos-litigation reform to minimum wage to lobbying reform.

Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21 Committed to campaign-finance reform even after McCain-Feingold and lobbying reform before Jack Abramoff became a household name, Wertheimer is the most visible of the capital’s good-government watchdogs.


Top association Lobbyists

Mitch Bainwol, Recording Industry Association of America Apple’s iTunes made it easy to pay for digital music, but new threats from satellite and high-definition radio mean this former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) will have to keep fighting for legislation to protect the labels’ share of the music market.

Dan Berger, National Association of Federal Credit Unions There is no greater compliment on K Street than being courted by your mortal enemies. When this top-tier banking lobbyist defected to work with credit unions, his clout grew exponentially.

John Castellani, Business Roundtable Castellani deftly straddles the worlds of politics and big business. In 2005, Castellani helped ensure one delivered two things for the other: legal reform and a free trade deal with Central America.

Red Cavaney, American Petroleum Institute For much of the past year, Cavaney has been on the hot seat as policymakers have raised questions about rising oil prices. He notes that most U.S. oil and natural-gas companies are crude-oil “price-takers,” not “price-makers.”

Dan Danner, National Federation of Independent Business It can take any number of ingredients to make a good lobbyist, but one crucial element is reach, and the NFIB and Danner have plenty of it. With 600,000 member companies behind him and more than two decades of experience, Danner knows the recipe for legislative success.

Tom Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Donohue once again stays bigger than life, riding victories over the past year ranging from class-action reform to bankruptcy reform, the Central America Free Trade Agreement and major transportation and energy bills.

John Douglass, Aerospace Industries Association A nationally recognized expert in acquisition, Douglass is a former assistant secretary of the Navy for research development and acquisition.

Lynn Dudley, American Benefits Council The rise of House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) moved pension overhaul onto the front burner this year, and no one knows the details of retirement-benefits law like this good-natured Southerner.

John Engler, National Association of Manufacturers Engler and President Bush share a close bond as former governors, and NAM’s lobbying work has expanded beyond economic policy to touch on the breadth of the White House agenda.
Frank Fahrenkopf, American Gaming Association A former Republican Party chairman, Fahrenkopf knows everyone you should in Washington. That means anti-gambling bills, such as one to ban sports betting, face long odds on Capitol Hill.

Jack Gerard, American Chemistry Council Coming over from the National Mining Association Gerard has moved swiftly to coordinate the group’s message on natural gas and security issues.

Jerry Giovaniello, National Association of Realtors This affable New York native knows how to work a room without strong-arming — and he will need to work both sides of the aisle as the Realtors continue to fight to keep bankers off their turf.

Dan Glickman, Motion Picture Association of America Glickman had big shoes to fill when he was named to succeed iconic Jack Valenti as Hollywood’s top Washington lobbyist nearly two years ago. But since that time, Glickman has worked to overcome Republican criticism of his Democratic background by assembling a bipartisan team that includes John Feehery, former press secretary to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Ralph Hellman, Information Technology Industry Council A former top policy aide for Hastert and then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Hellman has Hill relationships others only dream about.

Karen Ignagni, America’s Health Insurance Plans This year, the influential Ignagni and her members will begin to find out if the Medicare drug benefit is a multibillion-dollar winner or a magnet for more backlash against HMOs.

Bruce Josten, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Josten plays a critical role in the Chamber’s successes, directing the day-to-day business along with Rolf Lundberg.

Chip Kahn, Federation of American Hospitals The formidable Kahn has a strong record of getting what his members need, but this year could be different if the industry continues to resist key elements of the White House’s agenda.

Tom Kuhn, Edison Electric Institute It took a few years, but Congress in 2005 finally passed an energy bill — the first comprehensive policy effort on that score in more than a decade. The EEI and Kuhn’s influence played a major role.

Mark Maslyn, American Farm Bureau Federation This key lobbyist for farmers and ranchers helped beat back proposed steep cuts to agriculture subsidies this year.
James May, Air Transport Association The big fight over the reauthorization of the trust fund that pays for air traffic control happens next year, but May, a retired Marine Corps captain and Vietnam veteran, is laying the groundwork now by explaining, with trademark frankness, what’s at risk if Congress dawdles.

Walter McCormick, U.S. Telecom Association There is very little “baby” about “Baby Bells” anymore, what with the mergers of SBC with AT&T and Verizon with MCI. McCormick makes sure his group’s lobbying effort befits the major players it represents.

Mark Merritt, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association The Bush administration has been on the defensive about the new Medicare drug benefit, but PCMA has been a steady ally. Merritt routinely counters Democratic attacks with salvos of his own.

Dan Mica, Credit Union National Association Mica and his group are players on the Hill. Any legislative move to upset credit unions triggers an immediate reaction from CUNA members.

Steve Pfister, National Retail Federation Pfister heads the government-affairs shop for the world’s largest retail trade association with a broad base of lobby power, throwing his weight behind issues such as bankruptcy reform, the passage of CAFTA and China trade policies.

Kurt Pfotenhauer, Mortgage Bankers Association The ongoing negotiations to create a new regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will keep Pfotenhauer’s crack lobbying team, led by Erick Gustafson, busy this year.

Rick Pollack, American Hospital Association Hospitals of all types and sizes will be looking to Pollack and his team to fend of unfavorable legislation affecting Medicare payments, tax breaks and pricing.

Leigh Ann Pusey, American Insurance Association Congress’s 11th-hour agreement on terrorism risk insurance could not have happened without Pusey, who learned the ropes on the staff of former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and now has former Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot in her corner.

David Rehr, National Association of Broadcasters Rehr did such a good job leading the National Beer Wholesalers Association that NAB hired him away.
Ray Scheppach, National Governors Association When their governor speaks, some lawmakers perk up and listen. When 50 governors speak in unison through Scheppach, lawmakers risk a battle if they don’t pay attention.

Gary Shapiro, Consumer Electronics Association Shapiro has been busy lobbying for a hard cut-off debate for analog broadcasts, predicting such a move will boost DTV sales even higher in 2006.

Richard Shelby, American Gas Association On Capitol Hill, Shelby was a political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Off it, he’s become one of the top Republican fundraisers. But Shelby is more than a moneyman; his diligence has helped raise the prominence of high natural gas prices as a political issue.

Billy Tauzin, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Emerging from a one-year ban on lobbying Congress, this smooth former lawmaker should be ready to take his glad-handing style back to the Hill. At his side is Alan Gilbert, who was recently lured from the White House to run PhRMA’s lobbying shop.

Dirk Van Dongen, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Their name may sound niche, but the Wholesalers’ political operation is vast and powerful. Van Dongen secured passage of the junk-fax bill this year and continues to fight for corporate tax-cut extensions.

Fred Webber, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Webber returned from retirement in 2004 to guide the alliance, which represents both foreign and domestic carmakers, as it searched for a permanent chief executive. Board members liked him so much they asked him to stay permanently. Webber works with highly regarded Mike Stanton, who is a major source of information to congressional offices.

Joel Wood, Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers Wood, a former political reporter, is the council’s top lobbyist and chief administrator of the group’s PAC.

Ed Yingling, American Bankers Association Claiming the presidency of the ABA — and control over its $75 million budget — in May did not distract Yingling from parrying political moves by credit unions, Realtors and the mighty Wal-Mart.

Compiled by Bob Cusack, Susan Crabtree, Jonathan E. Kaplan, Elana Schor, Jim Snyder, Roxana Tiron, and Jeffrey Young