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The new cost-cutting climate in Washington, highlighted by last week’s draft federal deficit commission report, could be a bonanza for lobbying shops.
A wide array of groups are mobilizing to oppose provisions in the nearly $4 trillion deficit cutting plan, which is not yet finalized but suggests hitting almost every aspect of the federal budget, including Social Security, Medicare, defense, the space program and oil exploration subsidies.
Even if the commission’s 10-year plan is watered down or rejected, House Republican leaders have made clear that budget cutting will be a top priority for their new majority next year. They have also said they intend to impose a moratorium on earmarks, which have been a gold mine for lobbyists seeking to secure funding for client projects.
“It is good for guys like us,” said Marc Lampkin, a Republican lobbyist with Quinn Gillespie & Associates. “I think you will see instead of a flattening or retrenchment of lobbying, you will see an uptick.”
Lampkin, a former aide to presumptive Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said lobbyists will have to focus more than usual on freshmen, many of whom were swept in on vows to slash spending.
“You are going to have to spend more time trolling the halls of Congress, educating them, explaining to them why a program is important,” he said.
Lampkin also said lobbyists will have to increase grass-roots efforts and use social media to sway Members about the merits of certain programs.
The lobbying is already beginning in anticipation of the deficit commission issuing its final report Dec. 1.
While the National Association of Home Builders had long arranged for its members to meet with lawmakers this week to discuss ways to bolster the ailing housing market, the deficit report provided them with a more urgent matter to talk about when they hit Capitol Hill.
The homeowners group said it intends to press lawmakers not to go along with the proposal to limit mortgage deductions to exclude second residences, home equity loans and mortgages that are more than $500,000.
Joseph Stanton, NAHB senior vice president and the lead lobbyist for the group, said the homebuilders intend to go on the offensive against proposed mortgage deduction changes both now and in January when the new Congress convenes with newly elected deficit hawks.
“In the end, we believe [proposed mortgage changes] will be a tax increase, which we don’t believe the tea party is for,” he said.
But the clout of K Street worries fiscal conservatives who view the commission’s blueprint as a starting point for discussions to shrink the budget.
“I think this shows how difficult this will be, because this was just a draft, and every lobbyist has popped out of the woodwork,” said Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.