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.
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.
Mitch Bainwol, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
Bainwol, who has represented automakers in Washington since 2011, helped steer the industry along a bumpy road after companies such as Volkswagen, Toyota and General Motors issued multiple recalls resulting in contentious congressional hearings.
Mark Baker, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Baker uses his experience as a 37-year flight veteran to raise the profile of the general aviation industry in Washington as Congress considers a new funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Meredith Attwell Baker and Jot Carpenter, CTIA-The Wireless Association
The wireless trade association has a busy fall and winter ahead as the industry closely monitors preparations for an upcoming airwaves auction and eyes an expected spectrum reform bill.
Michael Beckerman, The Internet Association
Beckerman represents member companies such as Uber and FanDuel that are posing previously unforeseen questions for lawmakers and regulators.
Kenneth Bentsen Jr., Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association
Former Rep. Bentsen (D-Texas) has kept SIFMA in the thick of a number of financial fights, including leading the charge against the White House’s push to set new rules on retirement plan advisers.
B. Dan Berger, Brad Thaler and Jillian Pevo, National Association of Federal Credit Unions
Berger, Thaler and Pevo work to ensure that credit unions retain a seat at the table as Washington debates a host of legislative and regulatory issues involving the financial sector.
John Bozzella, Global Automakers
Bozzella is in his second year at the group’s helm and is leading the organization at a crucial moment as the auto industry comes under close scrutiny in Washington and abroad.
Tom Buis, Growth Energy
The threats against the federal ethanol mandate are increasing, and farmers are looking to Buis to defend the industry’s position.
Kevin Burke, Airports Council International – North America
Burke’s second year leading the lobbying group for the nation’s airports saw him locked in a standoff with airlines over the amount of money passengers can be charged for airport improvements via fees added to the price of flight tickets.
Nicholas Calio, Airlines for America
Calio and the airlines have sought to convince the Obama administration and Congress to weigh in on a fight with Middle Eastern carriers over alleged international flight subsidies they say violate Open Skies agreements.
Kateri Callahan, Alliance to Save Energy
Callahan’s goal is to advance energy efficiency policies, a concept that receives strong bipartisan support in Washington.
Robert Cresanti, International Franchise Association
Cresanti took the helm of the IFA last month in the midst of a major battle over the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial joint employer policy.
Dan Danner, National Federation of Independent Business
Lobbying against burdensome regulations and pushing for tax reform have been top priorities for Danner, who will step down from his role as president and CEO of the nation’s leading small-business group at the end of the year.
Richard Deem, American Medical Association
A former Reagan administration health official, this year Deem helped achieve a decade-old goal of nixing the sustainable growth rate.
Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association
As the Obama administration closes in on setting a new ethanol mandate for fuel through the end of 2016, Dinneen remains a vocal advocate for the highest possible required levels.
Chris Dodd, Motion Picture Association of America
The former Democratic senator from Connecticut is a key player in the ongoing debate in Congress over copyright policy.
Thomas Donohue and R. Bruce Josten, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
At odds with President Obama on many issues, the prominent business lobby won major victories alongside the White House on trade promotion authority legislation and completion of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Calvin Dooley, American Chemistry Council
With legislation on the table, the ACC’s president and CEO is pushing Congress to adopt the toxic chemicals reform bill that passed the House earlier this year.
Marty Durbin, America’s Natural Gas Alliance
Durbin and the ANGA are on the front lines of a national battle over fracking as federal regulators are cracking down on some aspects of natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
Martin Edwards, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America
Edwards is working to ensure that the country’s newfound abundance of natural gas can get where it needs to go through major pipeline infrastructure.
John Engler, Business Roundtable
Engler is focused on a host of Washington’s most contentious issues, including expanding trade, reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, cybersecurity, immigration reform, reducing regulations implemented by the Obama administration, and an overhaul of the tax code.
Camden Fine, Independent Community Bankers of America
Looking out for the banking industry’s little guy, Fine is pushing for sweeping changes at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, including the addition of a five-member commission and an independent inspector general to increase accountability.
Alex Flint, Nuclear Energy Institute
The nuclear sector won victories in the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants, but Flint and the NEI still face stiff headwinds in promoting their industry.
Geoff Freeman, American Gaming Association
With Nevada’s prominent spot in the 2016 election, Freeman is putting his members front and center.
David French, National Retail Federation
French is leading the retail industry’s charge on swipe-fee reform, apparel rules in trade deals and reporting requirements under the healthcare law, among others.
Lee Fuller, Independent Petroleum Association of America
Fuller, a former Senate aide, has a busy schedule with lobbying battles on oil exports, endangered species, hydraulic fracturing and other issues that matter to the nation’s oil drillers.
Dean Garfield, Information Technology Industry Council
Garfield, a former Motion Picture Association of America executive, directs a trade association that speaks for some of tech’s top companies and is a voice in the national conversation about how to make tech a more diverse field.
Jack Gerard, American Petroleum Institute
Gerard, one of biggest lobbying names in Washington, D.C., has made significant progress with industry priorities such as oil exports this year, but the battle is far from over.
Jerry Giovaniello, National Association of Realtors
Giovaniello kept his focus on ability-to-repay rules, guarantee fees, housing finance reform and lowering Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance premiums.
Mark Gorman and David Culver, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States
The alcohol industry group has been busy protecting its members from higher taxes while fending off trade barriers.
Rob Gramlich, American Wind Energy Association
The Obama administration is leaning heavily on renewable power to clean up energy production, and Gramlich’s group stands to make big gains.
James Greenwood, Biotechnology Industry Organization
A former congressman from Pennsylvania and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Greenwood has kept busy as the group juggles issues relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 21st Century Cures Act and calls for stricter regulation of drug prices.
Edward Hamberger, Association of American Railroads
Hamberger was part of a successful push for a congressional agreement to extend a deadline for automated trains on most of the nation’s railways.
Gerald Howard, National Association of Home Builders
Howard is leading home builders in a fight against new Obama administration labor, overtime and clean water regulations that raise costs for builders and homebuyers.
Richard Hunt, Consumer Bankers Association
Hunt’s work at the CBA, whether sparring with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or airing banks’ perspective on the student loan debate, has kept retail banks in the mix.
Jeremy Allen and Erik Komendant, America’s Health Insurance Plans
Allen — a former pharmaceutical lobbyist who now oversees GOP lobbying efforts — tag teams advocacy for the nation’s largest insurer group with Komendant, a former Blue Dog Coalition policy director who now oversees Democratic lobbying.
Chip Kahn, Federation of American Hospitals
As the D.C. liaison to hundreds of for-profit hospital chains, Kahn has overseen a time of unprecedented changes to hospital payments, patient safety and reimbursements under ObamaCare.
Dirk Kempthorne, American Council of Life Insurers
The former Republican senator and governor from Idaho leads life insurers as they deal with issues such as new capital requirements from the Federal Reserve.
Thomas Kuhn and Brian Wolff, Edison Electric Institute
Kuhn manages the association of electric companies from the C-suite, while Wolff, a former Democratic operative, spearheads the group’s grassroots political outreach as the electric industry faces increasing renewable energy and grid challenges.
Katherine Lugar, American Hotel & Lodging Association
Lugar has increased the hotel trade group’s focus on advocacy and achieved record PAC contributions.
Linda Lipsen, American Association for Justice
Lipsen’s group represents the nation’s trial lawyers in Washington and has fought for courtroom attorneys on Capitol Hill.
Walter McCormick, Jr., USTelecom
McCormick and his organization advocate for the broadband industry on a range of issues before Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.
Dave McCurdy and Kyle Rogers, American Gas Association
Former Rep. McCurdy (D-Okla.), now president and CEO of the association, and Rogers, a 17-year veteran of the AGA, are working to leverage the growth in the natural gas market into new business.
Nancy McLernon, Organization for International Investment
McLernon and her organization advocate for foreign-owned companies trying to operate in the U.S. and is pushing for the country to adopt new trade deals.
Mark Merritt, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
Merritt has aggressively taken on the drugstore lobby as he fights for lower prescription prices for the 250 million health plans administered by pharmacy benefit managers nationwide.
David Melcher, Aerospace Industries Association
Melcher was tapped to lead the AIA in June, replacing longtime chief Marion Blakey. Before taking the reins at the industry heavyweight, Melcher served as president of aerospace company Exelis.
Rob Nichols, American Bankers Association
Nichols, a former Treasury Department official, is putting his experience as the leader of the Financial Services Forum to work as the new head of the banking heavyweight.
Rich Nolan, National Mining Association
The Capitol Hill veteran has his hands full fighting a steady stream of Environmental Protection Agency regulations as the Obama administration looks to tamp down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Jim Nussle, Credit Union National Association
A former eight-term Republican congressman from Iowa and director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, Nussle has led the CUNA since September 2014.
Mark Parkinson, American Health Care Association
The nursing homes group led by the former Democratic Kansas governor was an early supporter of Congress’s “doc fix” legislation, which eliminated a decade-old automatic payment cut.
Tim Pawlenty and Francis Creighton, Financial Services Roundtable
Pawlenty, the former GOP governor of Minnesota, and Creighton, a former top staffer for Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State Tell our troops: 'Your sacrifice wasn't in vain' MORE (D-Conn.), keep the nation’s top financial executives in the loop.
Michael Powell, National Cable & Telecommunications Association
Powell, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is now fighting the agency he once led to block net neutrality rules.
Leigh Ann Pusey, American Insurance Association
Pusey has spent nearly 20 years with the AIA, representing hundreds of insurers.
John Rother, National Coalition on Health Care
A former vice president at AARP, Rother now leads a group of more than 80 organizations, from insurers to unions, aiming to reform the healthcare system and lower costs.
Bob Rusbuldt and Charles Symington, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America
Rusbuldt, Symington and “Big I” notched a major win this year with the extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.
Norb Ryan Jr., Military Officers Association of America
Ryan, a retired Navy vice admiral, spent the last year fighting to preserve U.S. troop pay and benefits against budget cuts, a cause he’ll continue to champion in upcoming fiscal fights.
Stephen Sandherr, The Associated General Contractors of America
Sandherr is pushing Congress to pass a long-term transit and highway funding bill while advocating on behalf of construction jobs as the industry revs up.
J.C. Scott, AdvaMed
Scott has been working to repeal the medical device tax since coming over from the American Council of Life Insurers in 2011, and bipartisan support is building.
Gary Shapiro, Consumer Electronics Association
The CEA is an important voice in the burgeoning Internet of Things, with Shapiro testifying before Congress on the subject in July.
Cicely Simpson, National Restaurant Association
Simpson took over the influential group in 2015 after seven years as the chief lobbyist at Dunkin’ Brands.
Gordon Smith, National Association of Broadcasters
Broadcasters have been lobbying hard in preparation of the first-of-its-kind incentive auction, during which TV stations will be pressed to sell off their airwaves to make room for more wireless devices.
Scott Talbott, Electronic Transactions Association
Talbott and his Electronic Transaction Association have been focusing on the transition to chip-embedded credit cards and readers aimed at cutting back on data breaches.
Mary Kay Thatcher, American Farm Bureau Federation
Thatcher, a longtime agricultural lobbyist, pressed lawmakers in 2015 to maintain crop insurance subsidies, which farmers worry could be exposed to serious cuts.
Chet Thompson, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers
Thompson, who took over as AFPM’s president this year, brings to the post decades of experience working on energy policy.
Jay Timmons and Aric Newhouse, National Association of Manufacturers
Timmons and Newhouse have criticized the Obama administration’s climate agenda, labeling the new ozone standard the “most expensive regulation in history.” They have also helped to lead the charge to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and expand trade opportunities for manufacturers overseas.
Stephen Ubl, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
The incoming CEO at PhRMA is credited with lifting the profile of the medical device industry in Washington after 17 years at AdvaMed.
Richard Umbdenstock, American Hospital Association
Umbdenstock, who will end his eight-year tenure as head of the leading hospital trade group at the end of the year, is shepherding the industry through Medicare payment reforms and urging states to expand Medicaid.
Dirk Van Dongen, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
Van Dongen knows how to deftly mobilize the group’s extensive grass-roots network on a host of policy issues.
Nathaniel Wienecke, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America
In addition to working to extend the Terorrism Risk Insurance Act, the group is delving into insurance to protect companies from cybersecurity threats.