As Republicans rush to bring veteran lobbyists back to Capitol Hill, McCormick Group Principal Ivan Adler weighs in for Politico.
By Anna Palmer | December 19, 2014
Lobbyists can come home again.
As Republicans take control of Congress, they are bringing in veteran influence peddlers to help them run the show. Nearly a dozen veteran K Streeters have been named as top staffers to GOP leaders or on key committees as lawmakers prepare to take the gavel in January.
For instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell named Hazen Marshall policy director earlier this week. Marshall, a former staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, has spent the last 10 years as a lobbyist at the Nickles Group representing dozens of clients like AT&T, Comcast and energy company Exelon.
The trend is in part because Republicans are taking control of the Senate next year, opening up attractive jobs once held by Democrats.
And while former staffers-turned lobbyists often end up back in public service — the revolving door has been swinging for years — there is a notable increase in the pace of K Streeters making the move back to Congress this month.
“I think it’s to be expected, especially when you have a change in leadership in the Senate. The upper House has a little more glamour for a lot of people” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter with the McCormick Group. “There’s a lot of people who are looking to enhance their credentials… Going back to the Hill in a senior level position with lots of responsibility and visibility is just like people moving in the entertainment or sports industry in LA or New York.”
Marshall in McConnell’s office is hardly alone. Mark Isakowitz, who has been downtown since the mid-1990s first at the National Federation of Independent Business and then at the boutique firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, is also making the transition to Capitol Hill. The Ohio native will be chief of staff to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Appropriations guru Jeff Shockey is taking another swing through the revolving door — he has done two previous stints working in the House — will this time be leaving S3 Group to become staff director to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on the House Intelligence Committee.
In an email announcing his departure from the Nickles Group, Marshall wrote friends and clients that after working for former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) for nearly three decades he was looking forward to his next challenge as Republicans return to power.
“I am very excited about returning to the Senate to work for Leader McConnell and will do my best to help him and his talented team succeed,” Marshall wrote in an email announcing his move. “I love the Senate and I am blessed to have been given this opportunity to work with a great Leader who will restore the glory of that institution.”
Although lobbyists are sure to take a pay cut to return to the public sector — former long-time staffers can also use the time to increase their pensions and reach the next level of compensation.
Democrats are hardly immune from bringing in old political hands and lobbyists as staffers. Lobbyists like Luke Albee returned to become chief of staff for Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. And, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has relied heavily on former Comcast exec David Krone as a confidant and political adviser.
But over the past several years there has been little turnover in leadership roles or at the committee. Additionally, the President Barack Obama’s slamming of the influence industry and implementation of rules that tried to limit the number of registered lobbyists from joining his administration also put a slight freeze on the practice.
“The ‘Scarlet L’ is fading and it is fading rapidly,” Adler said of the increasing number of lobbyists returning to the Hill.
The thawing is in full effect. And, it’s not just establishment types that are choosing to hire veteran Washington operators as their top aides. Case in point: tea party Rep. Dave Brat. The Virginia Republican, who unexpectedly ousted then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a June primary, named Erin Siefring, a lobbyist with Heritage Action for America, as his chief of staff. Siefring previously worked as a lobbyist for the accounting firm KPMG and the Independent Community Bankers of America.
Others making the move include Airlines for America’s Chris Brown. The vice president for legislative and regulatory policy will become staff director on the House Transportation subcommittee on aviation, full committee Chairman Bill Shuster announced this week. Before A4A, Brown worked at the FAA and at law firms Akin Gump and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Democratic operative Gerry Petrella is also headed back to the Hill. After just seven months at SKDKnickerbocker Petrella is rejoining Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) operation as policy director for the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Republican communicator Brendan Buck has also left America’s Health Insurance Plans to become communications director of the House Ways and Means Committee under Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Ohio).
Several lobbyists said that their K Street brethren returning to Capitol Hill wasn’t about trying to influence lawmakers for any industry, but that it was about a dedication to public service and being able to afford to take a pay cut and rejoin the public sector