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K Street Lobbyists Decamp to the Campaign Trail

Lobbyist Alaina Beverly recently scheduled a two-week vacation from her job at the Raben Group, booked a flight to Miami, reserved a rental car and made plans to stay with friends.

It sounds like a great getaway during the downtime of the Congressional recess — except that Beverly plans to work a grueling schedule as a campaign volunteer.

She flew to the pivotal swing state Monday to aid President Barack Obama’s quest for a second term. “You only live once, and we only get this opportunity to re-elect the president once,” Beverly said. “This is my priority.”

The lure of the campaign trail is strong on K Street.

During the next two weeks, Republican and Democratic lobbyists will leave their comfortable offices, tap into their reserve of vacation days, put clients and family commitments on hold and head out to work on the campaigns of former bosses and other favorite politicians. They expect to canvass political battlegrounds, knocking on doors and putting up yard signs. Some will sit in windowless rooms calling voters, while others will pitch in by driving citizens to polling places.

The lobbyists endure the grunt work because they are, at heart, partisans who want to see their candidates in power. Many also feel compelled to help keep their patrons in office and to freshen their contacts inside the government. Such relationships are the currency of a solid book of business on K Street.

But the presence of lobbyist volunteers  is something that campaigns often prefer to keep quiet, especially on the Democratic side. It’s common for politicians of both parties at every level, including Obama, to rail against “special interests” and the people who represent them.

Many K Street denizens heading to states such as Connecticut, Ohio, Massachusetts, Missouri and Montana agreed to discuss their volunteer work on the condition that their names not be used. Some said they take pains not to appear like outsiders — a University of Connecticut sweatshirt has no place in Missouri, for example. And they keep any regional accents in check.

Beverly, a 2008 Obama campaign aide and former White House staffer in his administration, cannot donate money to the president’s re-election campaign because of his ban on contributions from registered lobbyists. But she said she wants to do everything in her power to ensure he wins Nov. 6.

She is returning to Miami, where the campaign sent her in the final month of the 2008 campaign. “I found an amazing operation down there,” she said. 

Chris DeLacy is fighting the same kind of battle on the opposite side. The lobbyist and campaign finance attorney at Holland & Knight has volunteered with Lawyers for Romney. He’s already participated in a training session and is awaiting an assignment, most likely in his home state of Virginia.

“Everyone’s prepared for a legal challenge,” DeLacy said.

He plans to use personal leave on Election Day, when he expects to serve as a poll observer. In that role, he could challenge a voter’s identification or registration if something seems amiss — for example, if a person shows up to vote but his or her name is already checked off on the rolls.

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