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K Street bullish on McCarthy

K Street bullish on McCarthy

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s stock is skyrocketing on K Street.

Even before the smoke clears from Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: How GOP takes back the House in two years Warren, Brown voice support for controversial Biden budget office pick Principles to unify America MORE’s (R-Ohio) bombshell resignation announcement, lobbyists are bullish about a presumed succession scenario that involves McCarthy ascending to the helm of the GOP conference.

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The California Republican is a clear favorite to claim the Speakership. And K Street is standing squarely behind him.

In the first six months of the year, McCarthy received big checks from the chiefs of some top business groups. Business Roundtable President John Engler, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons and Nicholas Calio, the president and CEO of Airlines for America, all helped fill McCarthy’s coffers, as did dozens of prominent Republican lobbyists in town.

“He’s close to a lot of people on K Street. He has made a deliberate effort to reach out to the business community,” said Dan Crowley, a partner at K&L Gates, who has known McCarthy for two decades, going back to their time in the Young Republicans.

“When your role is leader of the party — which he will effectively be as Speaker — you need that,” Crowley said. “You need leader who recognizes that the role of the government is to create an environment in which business can prosper.”

From January to June, K Street donated more than $150,000 to McCarthy’s campaign fund and leadership PAC, Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show. 

Many of his donors are former staffers, including former BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: How GOP takes back the House in two years Warren, Brown voice support for controversial Biden budget office pick Principles to unify America MORE aides Sam Geduldig of CGCN Group and Jeff Strunk of Forbes-Tate and former aides to ex-Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorSpanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida hangs in the balance Eric Cantor teams up with former rival Dave Brat in supporting GOP candidate in former district MORE (R-Va.), such as Kyle Nevins and Steve Stombres at Harbinger Strategies and Cheryl Jaeger of Williams & Jensen. 

But compared to Boehner, there is a relatively small network of former McCarthy aides-turned-lobbyists who stand to gain clout if their former boss claims the gavel.

About half a dozen of the majority leader’s ex-staffers have taken their talents to the private sector. Among them are Wes McClelland, a former McCarthy policy adviser who is now vice president for federal affairs at the American Insurance Association; Brian Worth, an in-house lobbyist at Uber; Steve Pinkos, a partner at American Continental Group who served as a policy director and general counsel to McCarthy; and Shelby Hagenauer, a senior policy adviser at law and lobby firm Nossaman.

“They become immediately more valuable because proximity to the Speaker is everything,” says Ivan Adler, a principal at The McCormick Group. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If that happens, they become the instant new ‘it girl.’”

McCarthy’s K Street network is attributed in part to his meteoric rise in leadership since being elected to Congress in 2006. 

Within two years of coming to Capitol Hill, he had secured a spot as chief deputy whip. He then became whip in 2011, and moved up to the House GOP’s No. 2 position after the defeat of Cantor last year.

McCarthy’s own staff also has K Street connections. Most prominently, his chief of staff, Tim Berry, was a lobbyist for Time Warner and a staffer to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). 

Last week, he added Matt Kellogg, a lobbyist for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, to advise him on financial and energy policy.

Pinkos, a former McCarthy senior aide, attributed McCarthy’s standing in the business community to his personality.

“He’s interested in other people and their stories — what made them successful and what their challenges are. [Whether] it’s a CEO, a small-business owner or a K Street lobbyist, he’s very approachable.”

To be sure, McCarthy has at times been at odds with business leaders, as is the case with his opposition to reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a top priority of some leading industry groups.

Should McCarthy take the No. 1 spot in House leadership, his next set of battles would involve trying to unite a rowdy caucus behind him in the hopes of fostering more legislative action.

“For K Street, there’s a hope that with Boehner leaving that maybe the fever has lifted with the ultra-conservative wing — the fever has lifted, let’s get some work done,” says Chris Jones, a managing partner of CapitolWorks.

“Whether it happens remains to be seen,” he added.