Reid leaving network of lobbyists behind

Reid leaving network of lobbyists behind
© Francis Rivera

The news of Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE’s (D-Nev.) retirement sent shockwaves down K Street on Friday, where a cadre of high-profile lobbyists are known for their ties to the Democratic leader.

More than two-dozen prominent K Streeters used to call Reid their boss on Capitol Hill, and now risk losing some of the luster from their brands when he exits politics.

In Reid’s office, meanwhile, staffers have a big decision to make: whether to transfer to another office or eventually jump to the private sector.


“The current staffers for him, especially the ones working on money issues, lose no value with him leaving,” Ivan Adler, a principal at The McCormick Group, told The Hill. “I imagine they will be in demand on K Street.”

Reid said on Friday that he would not be running for reelection in 2016, hanging it up after nearly three decades in the Senate.

The Nevadan was Senate majority leader from 2005 to 2014, and wielded extraordinary power in the chamber as he ushered many of President Obama’s legislative goals into law, including the healthcare reform law.

Some former staffers with ties to Reid have built prolific careers for themselves in the influence industry, including Jimmy Ryan at Elmendorf | Ryan, Jim Manley at QGA Public Affairs, Kai Anderson at Cassidy & Associates and Jake Perry at Crossroads Strategies.

Susan McCue, Reid’s former chief of staff, is the co-founder and president of Senate Majority PAC — a super-PAC dedicated to electing Democrats in the Senate. She also has a public affairs firm called Message Global.

Additionally, Reid has connections in the corporate world, with lobbyists Mike Castellano at Disney Worldwide Services, a part of the Walt Disney Company, and Peter Arapis holding down a post at Ford.

With Reid departing, some of the lobbyists could be at risk of seeing their careers take a hit.

One academic study from looking at revenues for contract lobbyists after their former bosses departed from Congress showed ex-aides saw a “very large percentage” decline in lobbying fees in the first semester after the person they worked for left either the House or Senate.

The sample size for the study — which appeared in a 2012 edition of The American Economic Review — is a small part of the overall industry, but it ultimately concludes that lobbyists with ties to important members or committees can see a revenue decrease of anywhere from 20 percent to 45 percent once their former boss leaves or is voted out of office.

“Most of my clients because they hired me because I have a Reid connection, but it's not like I'm talking to Reid. I'm working the Senate Democrats,” one former leadership aide who asked to remain anonymous told The Hill.

“What your Reid connection does is give you credibility with all the other Democratic offices. You understand the leadership, you understand the dynamics of the Senate and how that blends in,” said the former staffer.

In many cases, former Reid aides in the lobbying world have already spent years building up a loyal book of clients and a reputation independent from the Democratic leader.

“Certainly, if you're one of those people who is a former Reid staffer, you would hope that you had been planning for the time that Harry would not be there,” Adler, the headhunter, said. “It’s the, ‘you've got to build your well before you're thirsty,’ kind of deal.”

However, while the ex-Reid aide said he might lose a client because of the Nevada Democrat’s retirement, the lobbying business is all about “still hustling to try and get business anyway,” adding that the industry is built for changes in the political environment.

Adler said he’s not convinced that Reid’s ex-staffers will take much of a hit, saying that anecdotal evidence shows that a change in majority can have more of an impact on lobbying revenues.

“If you were tied into the Pope, and the Pope leaves — you still know a bunch of cardinals who are still there,” he said.

To that end, it is worth mentioning that Harbinger Strategies — a firm recently launched by former aides to ex-Rep. Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' MORE (R-Va.) and former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — has signed nearly 30 high-level clients in its first three months of business. 

“In a lot of ways, when one door closes and another one opens,” the former Reid staffer said.