Feb. 9, 2016

Boutique Lobbyists Lure Big Payout

Revenue Per Employee Varies Widely on K Street

At Capitol Tax Partners, a boutique lobbying firm that, as its name suggests, specializes in arcane budgetary issues, it took seven lobbyists to bring in $11.9 million in lobbying revenue last year. Across town at powerhouse firm Patton Boggs, the shop that grossed the most lobbying revenue last year, it took 137 registered lobbyists to pull down $40.7 million.

While both firms are among the largest 25 lobbying firms, Capitol Tax’s seven employees averaged $1.7 million each, and Patton Boggs’ lobbyists averaged $297,080 apiece.

The huge disparity in revenue per lobbyist at the two firms — revealed in a Roll Call analysis of Lobbying Disclosure Act filings with Congress — shows that even among K Street’s biggest 25 lobbying practices, the business models vary widely.

Capitol Tax, which ranked 18th in overall revenue among lobbying firms last year, catapulted ahead of many of the city’s other top firms in revenue per lobbyist because of a small staff that worked exclusively on accounts that included Accenture, Apple and Verizon.

Lindsay Hooper, the firm’s co-founder, said that because of the complexities of tax issues, Capitol Tax Partners does not delegate part-time lobbying work to associates, as some firms do.

“Clients expect a majority of our work will be done by the principals,” Hooper said. “There are a lot of firms that do a lot more leveraging. You can bring in inexpensive help.”

Other lobbying shops with smaller staffs also jumped to the top of the list of revenue per lobbyist.

Ranked second was the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, which generated $1.35 million on average for each of its eight registered lobbyists last year. Breaux Lott, whose principals include former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), ranked at the bottom of the top 25 in overall revenue.

John Breaux Jr., son of the ex-Senator who lobbies with his father, said the bipartisan nature of the firm helped explain the big sums it commands for each of its lobbyists’ efforts.

“You get two firms in one, and the limited number of the lobbyists that we have devote personal attention to the client,” he said.

Breaux Lott’s client list includes some of the nation’s largest companies and trade groups, including Chevron, AT&T, FedEx, General Electric and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

While such smaller specialty firms are at the top when measured by revenue per lobbyist, several large firms, such as Patton Boggs, which traditionally rake in the most lobbying income, ranked lower.

What’s a Lobbyist Worth?

Some of these large firms said they would rather show more modest figures to their clients looking for value.

“What lobbyist in town is worth $1.7 million?” asked Rich Gold, a partner at Holland & Knight.

Holland & Knight, which was seventh in overall revenue, dropped to No. 22 in revenue per lobbyist. The firm’s 73 lobbyists brought in, on average, $297,260 last year.

Gold said the large number of people working part time on lobbying at law firms accounts for much of the differences in lobbying revenue. But he said they do not totally account for why some smaller firms generate such huge sums for each of their lobbyists compared with larger law firms.

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