Former Rep. Deborah Pryce says business for Republican-friendly lobbyists has picked up since it became clear that 2010 would be a good year for the GOP.
“I thought it was a growth experience,” Thorsen said of building up a clientele while Democrats controlled both chambers and the administration. “It really forced me to hone my focus on ways I could add value for clients when it wasn’t always abundantly apparent.
“I’d lobbied when we were still in the majority, and in that capacity I thought my role was more straightforward and the goals more obvious,” he added. “In the House minority, especially when there’s a big margin, you have to hustle more, you have to look at the process more closely and understand where the pressure points are.”
During the past few years that Republicans have been in the minority on Capitol Hill, Drew Maloney, another former DeLay aide, forged new connections to the Senate and continued to build relationships with House Republicans. And as one of the minds behind the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Club 218 fundraising program, Maloney worked to help his party retake the majority.
“I think the new majority is going to be operationally different from the previous — you learn from prior mistakes, then try to improve,” he said.
Howard, vice chairman at Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, said it has felt a bit like the past while advising House Republican aides on Capitol Hill over the past week.
“I was up there quite a bit this week, talking to people,” said Howard, who also worked for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and in the George W. Bush administration. “I was struck by a lot of the experiences that they’re going through are similar to what we were going through in ’94. But they’re much better prepared because they know what to prepare for. We really didn’t because it had been 40 years.”
Even veteran Republicans such as Howard, whose advice is sought by those on the Hill, will need to adapt to a new lineup of committee chairmen and fresh faces.
“I’ve known them, but the challenge for me is, I need to understand their priorities, their agenda, and then be able to interpret that for clients,” he said. “The rhythm of the town is going to switch. You walk through the hallways. The rooms are all the same, a lot of people are the same, but there’s a lot of change.”
He added: “You can’t put too much stock in the old ways. There’s going to be a powerful current of change, and you’ve got to adapt to that.”
Hellmann noted that House Republicans clearly have a stronger and better relationship with the business community. “And they’ll be moving legislation which the business community wants to see passed, so it’s in their best interest to work together,” he said.
And even if the GOP-connected lobbyists find themselves competing with one another for clients or face time with Members, Hellmann said it’s a tight-knit group.
“In the end, we’re family,” he said. “We spent years together working; sure we may compete, either at an association level or firm level, but we can still all be friends at the end of the day.”
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.