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K Street Tries to Woo the New Cast of Powerbrokers

“I think it loses some of its steam,” said Kara Campbell, a GOP lobbyist with the Franklin Square Group, which represents high-tech companies. A prominent net neutrality proponent, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who chairs the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, lost on Election Day. Most Republicans, including the likely new chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Cliff Stearns (Fla.), oppose new Internet regulations.

Campbell said high-tech companies will likely shift their focus to other issues such as supporting an extension of research and development tax credits and free-trade agreements. 

She said there may be some adjustments on the lobbying teams of tech companies but added that many already are fairly balanced in terms of partisan makeup.

Different Prescription

A top priority of the Republicans is to repeal the health care overhaul that was accompanied by an unprecedented lobbying frenzy by opponents and proponents.

But the health care industry is unlikely to devote a huge amount of resources directly to the repeal effort, according to medical-sector insiders.

“I don’t envision an appetite for that,” said Mark Merritt, president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. Merritt, a former GOP consultant, said that health-care-related associations will more likely put their resources toward trying to tweak provisions that directly affect them in the health care law.

Health care reform champion Ron Pollack, president of Families USA, said that while industry groups don’t want to upset Republicans, they will also be wary of alienating Democrats, who still control the Senate and the administration, which is now implementing the law.

One health care lobbyist said that if health care and business interests do get involved in the repeal fight, it will be through anonymous funding of outside conservative groups that were active in the midterm campaigns.

Lubricating the Lawmakers

Oil companies, slammed by Democrats following BP’s oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last spring, are expecting a friendlier reception on Capitol Hill from the GOP leadership, which has generally opposed restrictions on offshore drilling.

Frank Maisano, an energy specialist at Bracewell & Giuliani, said he expects “a more balanced approach to policy discussions,” rather than what he said has been a “political inquisition.”

But Maisano also said there was a downside to the elections — the loss of conservative Democrats who have supported the industry such as Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Reps. Chet Edwards (Texas) and Charlie Melancon (La.).

Having support from those lawmakers bolstered the energy industry’s arguments that it had bipartisan backing for its positions.

Trading Jabs

The White House and Republicans have indicated that one area they can work together is trade, and there are a number of pending agreements, including one with South Korea.

Lobbying has already begun anew on the matter, with Ford Motor Co. running ads two days after the elections seeking changes to provisions in the South Korean free-trade agreement. The auto giant is concerned that the trade pact won’t sufficiently open up the auto market in South Korea to U.S. exports.

The print ads were timed to coincide with President Barack Obama’s embarking on a trip to Asia, where he will attend the G-20 summit this week in Seoul.

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