Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

K Streeters Adjusting to Loss of Earmarks

Kelly said one of his clients, Smiths Detection, which makes security screening equipment, wants the Homeland Security Department to reveal what it might want to purchase in the future. Kelly worked last year to add language to the manager’s statement of the bill funding the agency encouraging officials to detail their plans.

For his clients, Vernon Simmons, a vice president at Cassidy, said he spends a lot of time on Capitol Hill defending programs that are already funded or explaining why “we disagree with cuts that have been made to those programs.”

“From my perspective, the bottom line is still how to help the companies get dollars for the programs that are important to them,” added Simmons, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.

There has been speculation that some Republicans on Capitol Hill, who backed the earmark moratorium but have grown frustrated that it gave more spending authority to the Obama administration, might welcome a return to the old system when the ban ends.

Most lobbyists say they won’t bank on such buyer’s remorse and will stay focused on driving a particular outcome for their clients, no matter the means they use to achieve it.

Beyond executive branch lobbying, Michael Fulton, who focuses on appropriations with the Arnold Agency, has found help championing clients’ issues from various coalitions of Congressional lawmakers that form around issues. Last fall, for example, members of the House Manufacturing Caucus did an event with his clients.

Even with those new strategies, Fulton, like other lobbyists, still pines for the return of earmarks.

“Earmarks are not the bad boy of Washington, D.C.,” he said.

The government, he added, doesn’t save much money by eliminating them, either. “They were carved out of already existing pots of money, so that money is being doled out by agency folks who decide where the dollars go.”

With a little help from lobbyists like Fulton, of course.

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