The U.S. housing industry remains in the doldrums, and the industry's D.C. lobbying outfit appears to be suffering its own malaise.
Two senior staffers at the National Association of Home Builders have resigned, Roll Call learned Wednesday, a day after reports that the organization's top lobbyist had also jumped ship.
Elizabeth Odina, who lobbied on energy issues for the group, and legal counsel Holli Feichko resigned and will be leaving the group next week, according to sources familiar with the organization.
Their departures come on the heels of Tuesday's news that Joe Stanton, the group's top lobbyist, would leave to pursue other opportunities.
In just more than a year — with housing-related issues in the spotlight on Capitol Hill — the once formidable power has lost five key players, including four stars from its lobbying team. Jenna Hamilton, the lead lobbyist on labor issues, left last month, and Bill Kilmer, the executive vice president for advocacy and the organization's second in command, moved to the Mortgage Bankers Association last summer.
"There is this sort of, to be frank, dysfunctional atmosphere combined with the stress of what's going on in the industry," said one lobbyist familiar with the organization. "It has become known around town that the morale is low over there."
Another industry insider who is familiar with the workings of the association said some of the departures were because of "natural progression" but others were forced resignations inspired by threats of termination.
"I cannot emphasize strongly enough that there is no smoking gun," the source said. "Most acutely, some of them have been asked to take on more work and it's a tough time."
NAHB has downsized considerably in the past several years, losing more than 100 employees — about a quarter of its staff — since the economic downturn in 2008, although the advocacy department of the organization took a comparatively small blow, the source said.
The organization's lobbying activities, however, appear to have taken a hit, according to federal lobbying disclosure reports. The group has spent just less than $1 million on lobbying this year, a third of what it had spent by this time in 2008.
NAHB has business before several committees, including the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, which met publicly for the second time on Tuesday. The House Financial Services and Ways and Means committees and the Senate Banking and Finance committees have also recently held, or are scheduled to hold, hearings on NAHB issues.
Paul Lopez, spokesman for NAHB, offered comment only on Stanton's departure.
"Mr. Stanton has left NAHB to pursue other opportunities," Lopez said. "We thank Joe for his service to the industry and wish him well both personally and professionally. Effective immediately, Jim Tobin will be our new chief lobbyist."
None of the three departed staffers responded to Roll Call's request for interviews.
Stanton, who joined NAHB in 2004 after serving as the vice president for government affairs at the Beer Institute, has developed close relationships with House Republican leaders, making his departure all the more damaging, close associates said.
Friends say Stanton was not able to comment on the nature of his departure or on where he will work next.
"There are a lot of legal issues that need to be resolved, and that will take time," one friend said.
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