K Street staffs up for a Democratic takeover

Corporate America couldn’t hire Republican lobbyists fast enough after President Donald Trump’s election gave the GOP unified control of Washington. Now there are signs that Democrats are back in demand.

Companies and trade groups are trying to hire congressional staffers with ties to influential House Democrats four months ahead of the midterm elections, in which Democrats are expected to pick up seats and potentially retake control of the House. Lobbyists are helping their clients meet with the Democrats who would become committee chairs if the party does win back the chamber. And trade groups are talking to members about what to expect from a Democratic takeover.

“Clients are cautiously beginning to look and say, ‘Do we need to do more with people who have House Democratic expertise?’” said Steve Elmendorf, a prominent Democratic lobbyist and fundraiser who once worked in House leadership.

One senior Democratic House staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he’d been approached about multiple positions downtown, although he said he has rebuffed the offers so far.

Companies are moving to bolster their relationships with influential groups within the House Democratic caucus. Facebook, for instance, recently hired Chris Randle, who had been legislative director to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a rising star in the Congressional Black Caucus, and the company said it is looking to hire a second lobbyist with ties to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the powerful drug industry trade group, last month hired Ashley Baker Hayes, a former aide to Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas), another Congressional Black Caucus member.

Paul Brathwaite, a Democratic lobbyist and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he’d heard from at least a dozen House staffers who’d been recruited in recent months.

“Whether the Democrats take the majority or not, some of the more savvy companies and lobbying firms are actually trying to figure out how to cover their bases when it comes to the members of these caucuses,” Brathwaite said in an email.

The shift is still in its early stages. Democrats are expected to gain a substantial number of House seats in November, but in interviews, nearly a dozen lobbyists said it was too soon to tell whether Democrats would pick up the 23 seats they need to reclaim the majority. Many said they expect control of the House to be closely divided, and some companies and trade groups won’t move to bolster their relationships with House Democrats until closer to the election.

 

 

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