The new era of divided government is providing challenges and opportunities for one-party lobbying shops, which have marketed themselves as providing access to party leaders as well as keener insight into their political thinking and strategy.
But such shops are also subject to the swings of the election cycle and are forced to scramble for clients when their party loses control of a chamber or branch of government. They must compete with bigger bipartisan firms that sell themselves as better equipped to respond to clients’ needs no matter what the political makeup of Congress.
With businesses and trade associations now deciding who will lobby for them next year, such one-party shops are readjusting strategy and expectations for the coming year. In a reversal of roles, Democratic firms that threw business to GOP outfits may now find themselves more reliant on the kindness of their Republican partners.
Firms that are largely Republican and went through lean times when Democrats were in total control of the government say they are already experiencing an uptick in business. From 2007 to 2009, BGR Group saw its lobbying revenue drop from $147.6 million to $92.8 million.
But this year the firm has already signed 40 new clients, according to Loren Monroe, who leads BGR’s appropriations and state and local government affairs practice.
Monroe said many of the companies and associations signed up because they wanted stronger advocates to deal with legislation being considered on Capitol Hill, such as health care and financial reform.
The same is true for three veteran Republican lobbyists who left Ogilvy Government Relations earlier this year to form their own firm, Crossroads Strategies.
“Certainly people have been eager to take our phone calls,” said Stewart Hall, one of the new firm’s partners. The Crossroads client list already includes the National Rifle Association, Verizon and AT&T.
Andrew Shore opened his GOP lobbying shop in 2007, which he conceded was probably not the ideal time for a Republican to go into business. But like so many one-party shops, Jochum Shore & Trossevin weathered the lean times by partnering with Democratic firms.
With Republicans back in charge in the House, the prospects for Shore’s firm may be on the upswing.
“You are at the front end of opportunities instead of being carried on the back of benevolent Democratic friends,” Shore said.