Republican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race
K Street begins Trump's fourth year on strong note
K Street closed the fourth quarter of 2019 with high earnings, extending the influence world's Trump-era boom and entering the election year on a strong note.
Lobbying firms have seen an uptick since Trump took office in 2017 and the latest Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) reports show that trend keeping pace through the end of 2019.
Trump's trade agenda, as well as work on spending bills and deregulation, kept lobbyists busy despite the turmoil over impeachment.
Akin Gump is holding the highest-grossing spot again for the year. The firm reported just under $42.6 million in revenue for 2019 and $11.4 million in revenue for the fourth quarter alone.
"We had our strongest quarter ever in what turned out to be a record-breaking year in LDA revenue for the firm, driven by one of the most consequential legislative quarters in recent years," Hunter Bates, head of the public law and policy practice, told The Hill.
"The last three quarters were exceptionally strong with trade, health care and taxes dominating the agenda and culminating in a number of successes for our clients in the year-end legislative packages and trade deals," Bates added.
"I think our continued success is a reflection of the firm's commitment to having a deep regulatory practice working alongside a bipartisan lobbying practice that continues to invest in top talent."
Akin Gump's numbers were up from the $37.6 million in revenue in 2018. They also increased their quarterly revenue from $11.3 million in the third quarter of 2019. It marked the third straight quarter that the firm made over $10 million in revenue, which they attributed to a slew of new bipartisan hires in the last 18 months.
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck reported over $40.7 million in revenue for 2019, an increase from the $31.6 million it had in 2018.
The firm had a stronger fourth quarter than Akin Gump and reported just over $11.5 million. Brownstein also has had three straight quarters of over $10 million in revenue.
"Last year was a busy, productive year, there was a wide variety of issues that popped up. There was a big end of the year surge, kind of pre-impeachment, pre-election year effort... that sparked a lot of activity for people," said Marc Lampkin, government relations department chair. "There was a big push and so companies and trades were coming to Washington and... hiring the top firms to help them achieve their goals."
Lampkin touted Brownstein's bipartisan team of lobbyists and said they are able to work with "both chambers and up and down Pennsylvania Avenue."
Election years are often less busy for lobbyists as legislative work takes a backseat to campaigning, but Lampkin said he wouldn't be surprised to see a surge of activity in 2020.
"The Trump administration may want to engage in a furry of policy making initiatives during the summer before the conventions, which could provoke a series of opportunities to produce lobbying results," he said.
BGR Group ended the year at nearly $29.5 million in revenue, up from $27.1 million in 2018. It also reported over $7.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2019.
Squire Patton Boggs reported just over $25.8 million in 2019 revenue, up from $24.2 million in 2018. The firm reported just under $6.7 million for the fourth quarter, up from about $6.3 million in the third quarter.
Holland & Knight reported nearly $24.6 million in 2019 revenue, up from over $24.5 million in 2018. The firm reported over $6.4 million for the fourth quarter.
Medium-sized firms reported revenues which highlighted the competitive race to acquire clients.
Capitol Counsel reported nearly $17.9 million in revenue for 2019, up from over $17.6 million in 2018. The firm brought in over $4.7 million in the fourth quarter, surpassing the $4.6 million third-quarter mark.
K&L Gates reported just over $17.7 million revenue for 2019, a decline from about $18.3 million in 2018. In the fourth quarter, the firm reported $4.4 million.
Darrell Conner, co-leader of K&L Gates policy practice, also predicts 2020 will be busy for lobbyists ahead of the election.
"We expect the first half of 2020 to be busy, as clients work to capitalize on opportunities before the presidential election moves into high gear," he told The Hill.
Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas reported $16.6 million in 2019 revenue - a jump from the $15.5 million it made in 2018. In the fourth quarter, it made $4.3 million, an increase from $4.2 million in the third quarter of 2019.
Following closely behind was Democratic operative Heather Podesta's firm, Invariant. Invariant reported revenue of over $16.3 million in 2019, an increase from 2018's $13.1 million. It made over $4.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Covington & Burling reported over $16.3 million in 2019, down from 2018's $16.6 million in 2018. It also reported taking in over $4 million revenue in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Muftiah McCartin, co-chair of Covington's public policy practice group, is also gearing up for a busy year.
"We expect a hectic year on a couple of legislative fronts, even for a Presidential election year, as Democrats tee up 2021 priorities, including legislation addressing climate change, infrastructure investment and healthcare/drug pricing. This will be in addition to the annual appropriations and defense authorizations bills," she said.
Congress also has unfinished business.
"We also expect continued attention by committees on drug pricing, and a suite of issues around election security, including foreign interference in the election and social media standards and safeguards," McCartin added.
Cassidy & Associates ended the year at over $15.2 million, an increase from the roughly $14.5 million it reported in 2018. The firm brought in just under $4 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Just behind them is Forbes Tate, which reported over $15 million for 2019, a large jump from the $12.7 million it reported in 2018. The firm reported over $4 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.
The K Street boom also touched smaller firms, which saw a boost in revenues in Trump's third year in office.
CGCN reported nearly $9.3 million in 2019, a jump from the just over $9 million at the end of 2018. The firm brought in over $2.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Monument Advocacy ended the year at over $8.9 million, a nine percent increase from 2018, which saw $8.2 million in revenue. The firm made nearly $2.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.
This story was updated on Jan. 22 at 10:19 a.m.