New chairmen bring lobbyist ties

By Kevin Bogardus | 01/09/2019 07:14 AM EST

The power shift in Washington, D.C., is not only happening on Capitol Hill, but also among the K Street influence brokers.

Washington, D.C., lobbyists have been preparing for the change in the balance of power.

Washington, D.C., lobbyists have been preparing for the change in the balance of power. Alex Proimos/Wikipedia

The power shift is not only happening on Capitol Hill, but also K Street, an area home to many of Washington, D.C.’s advocacy shops.

With Democrats in control of the House and a new crop of committee leaders, lobbyists long tied to the party’s lawmakers will take on greater influence as the new majority pushes forward on investigations of the Trump administration as well as legislation dealing with climate change and renewable energy.

The new panel heads have long served in Congress, resulting in networks of former aides and political fundraisers who now work as lobbyists. Those denizens of the influence industry can provide policy as well as political advice. Democratic leaders are considered close to certain lobbyists.


Former leadership aides, like Nadeam Elshami, who served as Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) chief of staff and is now at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, and Steve Elmendorf, once chief of staff to House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and now at Subject Matter, remain in the loop.

So do former lawmakers who served with today’s Democratic leaders in the House, like former Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Lisa Kountoupes. Photo credit: Lisa Kountoupes/LinkedIn
Lisa Kountoupes. | Kountoupes/LinkedIn

Rep. Frank Pallone will be at the center of energy and environmental policymaking for House Democrats. As chairman of the House and Energy Commerce Committee, the longtime New Jersey Democrat has announced the panel’s first hearing will center on climate change.

Several lobbyists told E&E News that they considered Lisa Kountoupes close to the chairman. The lobbyist was a top Clinton White House aide who has also worked for the Department of Energy and former Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).

Her firm, Kountoupes Denham Carr & Reid LLC, represents energy clients like Exelon Corp., Fuels America and the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Pallone also has former aides on K Street, like Tim Yehl, who has served as his chief of staff and now has his own lobby shop.

Other lobbyists considered close to the Energy and Commerce chairman are Dan Tate at Forbes Tate Partners and Dan Turton with General Motors Co.

Jim Massie of Massie Partners is also said to be close to Pallone. His firm has Tara Billingsley, who worked in the Obama White House handling legislative affairs for energy and environmental policy as well as at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as a partner.

"Energy and Commerce has an incredibly vast jurisdiction," said a Democratic lobbyist. Pallone is "an experienced legislator and messenger. Even though being in the minority on that committee is important, he’s now going to set the agenda legislatively and for oversight."


Ana Ma. Photo credit: Ana Ma/LinkedIn
Ana Ma. | Ma/LinkedIn

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) will provide a key check on the Department of the Interior. As chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Grijalva plans to pursue testimony from former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over his ethics troubles as well as investigate the Trump administration’s mining and drilling policies.

Several lobbyists said that Ana Ma, Grijalva’s former chief of staff now at Nexxus Consulting LLC, remains close with the chairman.

Other ex-aides considered close are Patricia Tamez, the former Congressional Hispanic Caucus executive director now at Shell Oil Co., and Amelia Jenkins with Cassidy & Associates, once a top aide on the Natural Resources panel.

Lobbyists also said they considered Moses Mercado and Dean Aguillen, both with Ogilvy Government Relations, close to Grijalva. Cristina Antelo with Ferox Strategies was mentioned, as well.


Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) will serve as chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. She plans to look into how the Trump administration is handling research as well as addressing climate change.

Lobbyists said they considered Jennifer Stewart with Stewart Strategies & Solutions LLC and Rod Hall with K&L Gates LLP as close to the chairwoman. Both were former aides to Johnson.

Paul Brathwaite with Federal Street Strategies LLC also served as executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus under Johnson and is said to be close with the lawmaker.


Several lobbyists said that Brathwaite was also close to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Cummings’ panel will be the Democrats’ tip of the spear as they investigate Trump officials and policies.

In addition, lobbyists said Jon Alexander, who served as Cummings’ legislative director and is now at Monument Strategies LLC, is close to the chairman, as is Marcus Mason with the Madison Group. Others said they considered Mike Williams with the Williams Group close to Cummings too.

‘New reality’

It’s not a time ripe for dealmaking between parties as a partial government shutdown has lingered for weeks over President Trump’s desire for border wall funding.

In turn, Democratic lobbyists may spend the majority of this Congress telling clients what is not possible rather than what is possible on Capitol Hill. What passed muster under complete Republican control of Washington, such as a massive tax cut bill, is not going to fly today.

"There is a need for people on the inside to explain to people on the outside how House Democrats are going to function. There are some things that are just not going to happen," said a Democratic lobbyist.

"You are going to have to explain to the outside world that this is a new reality," the lobbyist said. "People [clients] are starting to think things through now, but it’s hitting them like a ton of bricks."

Even on less prominent panels, Democrats now will grab attention from K Street.

"In the House minority, the Natural Resources and the Science committees are basically lower priority. If you asked the Democratic staff, most trade association lobbyists and most corporate lobbyists don’t have relationships with them yet," said a lobbyist. "Until the Democrats got in the majority, they were not a priority."