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Lobbyists Get Busier as Shutdown Looms

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Ex-Rep. Charlie Stenholm’s agriculture clients could suffer in a government shutdown, but they doubt one will happen.

The National Federation of Federal Employees declared Tuesday a national “call-in” day for their 110,000 members around the country.

Not all lobbyists, though, are taking the shutdown threat seriously.

Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) represents several agriculture clients whose business could suffer if Agriculture Department inspections came to a halt. But Stenholm and his clients are betting that there won’t be a shutdown — at least not yet.

“Like most people in America, they cannot believe that the government is going to shut down over the CR,” he said. “The big battle is going to come in the debt ceiling and the budget for 2012.” 

For many lobbyists, next week — funding or no funding — will be business as usual. Meetings with clients, key federal workers and even some Hill aides are expected to continue.

“We’ll definitely be open — we’re not reimbursed by the government,” said Kelly Bingel, a partner at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti.

Even if a shutdown occurs, it’s not likely to last long.

“It’s such a temporary stop,” said Kathryn Lehman, a Republican lobbyist at Holland & Knight, who recalled working through the last closure as a House Judiciary Committee aide. “They are just going to take up where they left off, and I will keep working.”

That was Larry O’Brien’s experience back in 1995, too. The veteran lobbyist recalled minimal disruption to his own business during that shutdown.

“The shock factor was fairly high because no one could remember the last time the government shut down,” said the founder of the OB-C Group. “But as far as the practical effect, at least in terms of our world on K Street, I don’t recall that it was hugely unsettling.”

The only change was that it provoked more questions from clients who wanted to know when it would end and how, O’Brien said.

Gerald Cassidy, founder of Cassidy & Associates, a pioneer in the appropriations lobbying business, said the only consequences in the ’95 round were political. He expects a similar outcome should the government close this year.

“If the political tenor of the debate is going to change over the budget shutdown, that could affect clients’ interests,” said Cassidy, a Democrat. “It’s up to the public to determine how they see the shutdown.”

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