Feb. 6, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

K Street Warms Up to Would-Be Speaker

K Street is starting to see red.

With House Republicans poised to make major gains in November and Minority Leader John Boehner working to become the next Speaker, lobbyists are not-so-quietly cozying up to the Ohio Republican.

Several GOP lobbyists said they are advising their clients to try to make inroads with Boehner before the 112th Congress, even though a Republican takeover next year is far from assured.

“House Republicans will matter more in November because we are going to pick up quite a few seats,” said Quinn Gillespie & Associates lobbyist Marc Lampkin, a former Boehner Congressional aide. “Being bullish on Republicans in the House is a good investment right now.”

For many lobbyists, that means advising clients to increase their campaign contributions to Republican incumbents — particularly to vulnerable Members whom Boehner has put at the top of his political priority list.

The message from K Street seems to be resonating. The Minority Leader, optimistic about the prospect of taking back the House, is raising money at a fast clip.

Boehner’s fundraising picked up dramatically during the first quarter of this year. His Freedom Project political action committee, for example, raked in $60,000 in February. That’s almost double the $35,000 that the PAC reported bringing in at the same point two years ago. As of mid-April, Boehner’s campaign committee had raised $3.2 million, while his Freedom Project PAC had brought in $1.9 million by the end of March. Raising that money means putting in face time with downtown.

Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), along with the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, held a fundraiser Tuesday for vulnerable Republican Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.) at the Capitol Hill Club. And Boehner has a Freedom Project fundraiser today at the Capital Grille, a favorite haunt of lobbyists, that is expected to draw heavily from the pharmaceutical industry, according to lobbyists familiar with the event.

Boehner allies say his fundraising appeal has skyrocketed now that the GOP no longer controls Congress and the White House. Not to mention, they say, that the beleaguered Republican National Committee’s fundraising has been dismal this cycle.

“I think his presence for some people carries more gravitas than it used to,” said Altria’s top lobbyist, Bruce Gates, who is close to Boehner. “The guy you hung out with at the club, golf course or legislative coalition meeting, suddenly you look at him a little differently.”

The lobbyists’ strategy to up campaign contributions to Republican Members isn’t that surprising to Democrats who have complained that K Street has never warmed to the majority party, even after it swept control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.

“These guys are going to have to run the table to win back the House,” one Democratic lobbyist said. “It’s a long time between now and November. While folks may be prematurely measuring the drapes, I think everything needs to fall into place for that to happen.”

Uphill Climb

Democrats have fresh hope that they will hold on to the House after Rep. Mark Critz’s (D) decisive win over Republican Tim Burns in the Pennsylvania special election last week.

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