With control of the House in the balance, the two parties have begun corralling their allies on K Street in a bid to strengthen ties going into the pivotal midterm elections.
On Monday, top Democratic House staffers huddled with about 25 prominent Democratic lobbyists, just days after the chief of the House GOP campaign committee urged corporate allies to resist the impulse to give to Democrats as a way of hedging their bets.
The House Democrats’ unusually broad outreach effort Monday gave lobbyists a preview of the agenda for the remaining weeks of the session.
Those in attendance said the meeting — which took place in the offices of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — was light on specifics. Instead, lobbyists were assured that party leaders want them involved in the process and welcome their input.
“It was to say, ‘We need to more actively reach out to you and want to work with you,’” said one lobbyist who attended the meeting. “It was a recognition that people around the room have some good input.”
Staffers made no appeals for political contributions or other campaign help, said the lobbyists in attendance, adding that no one from K Street tried to press any client business in return.
“Nobody has any illusions that Democrats are going to be better for K Street,” said another lobbyist there, speaking privately. “We’re very mindful of the fact Democrats are never going to run the place the way the Republicans do. But they’ll have an open door to people, and we’ll have a chance to come in and make our case.”
The gathering, which lasted about an hour, brought together staffers representing a cross-section of the House Democratic Caucus. It included John Lawrence, Pelosi’s chief of staff, and Bill Cable, chief of staff to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), in addition to senior committee staffers and aides to members of the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition.
Lobbyists in attendance likewise ranged in their backgrounds and industry sectors, including Chuck Brain from Capitol Hill Strategies, Broderick Johnson from BellSouth, Jack Quinn from Quinn Gillespie & Associates, Dan Tate Jr. from Capitol Solutions and Dan Turton from Timmons and Co.
“It was talking with people downtown about how the lines of communication are open,” said Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider. She added that one issue discussed was Pelosi’s commitment to a more bipartisan process if Democrats were to retake control of the House “and how, no matter who is Speaker next Congress, they ought to enact civility principles.”
House Democratic leadership aides already meet irregularly with a small group of senior Democratic lobbyists, most of whom once worked in leadership themselves. But attendees of the Monday huddle said they understood it to be the first of a broader, if still irregular, conference with downtown allies.
The Democrats’ outreach comes as the party steps up pressure on lobbyists to contribute to their election efforts, mirroring a similar push from the GOP. However, the Republicans’ message is as much about urging donations to their party as it is about trying to scare off lobbyists and political action committee directors from spreading some of their cash to Democrats.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.