Bad economy keeps lobbyists anxious
A sign showing K Street in Washington,D.C.
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KAI RYSSDAL: It's not even a day old but the ban on lobbyists working in President Obama's administration has already run into trouble.
William Lynn, the president's pick to be number two at the Pentagon, was a lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon until July. Word out of the White House is that Lynn's going to be getting a waiver of some kind, despite the new rules the President announced yesterday.
With an $850 billion stimulus package working its way through Congress, one might think Washington's lobbying industry is booming. At $850 billion, there's plenty of room in that package to get something for everyone.
But Marketplace's Steve Henn reports the bad economy even has some on K street feeling anxious.
STEVE HENN: Right now, more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in tax cuts are sandwiched into President Obama's economic plan.
John Rafaelli is a Democratic tax lobbyist. Most of his clients want something included in that bill or something taken out.
JOHN RAFAELLI: The biggest difference this year is that you know what's being considered is actually going to get signed into law. So you've got to realize it's for real. It's serious.
That means Raffaelli's practice is booming. But he says that's not unusual when a new administration comes to town.
RAFAELLI: Anytime there is turnover, whether Democrat to Republican or Republican to Democrat, it's gonna create a lot of lobbying activity.
HENN: You might be in one of the few industries in America right now that is looking up.
RAFAELLI: Well . . .
Washington's lobbying industry is supposed to be recession proof. But some K Street insiders are nervous.
STEVEN HART: There's definitely some fear out here this time.
Steven Hart's a prominent Republican lobbyist. But it's not his party affiliation or Obama's new lobbying restrictions that have him worried. It's the economy.
Hart: I think we may be in an economic downturn that's perhaps worse than anything we've seen since the '30s. And that is going to impact the amount of money that is spent in Washington, D.C. A sophisticated business leader is going to have to make the decision about whether he is going to turn the lights on in his factory or have his lobbyist go to the Hill.
Some trade associations and corporate government affairs shops are already seeing cutbacks. It's true new leaders bring new ideas and that usually brings in the business. But this year may be different.
This year Hart says many businesses that need lobbyists simply may not have the money to pay for them.
In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.