K Street Lobbying for Votes

Empty offices. Lobbyists scattered across the country volunteering on campaigns. This is K Street on Election Day. Take the Podesta Group. Many of the bipartisan firm’s staffers spent the day working at phone banks from Arizona to Virginia or knocking on doors, urging voters to turn out. “I did phones this morning, then I walked some neighborhoods as well,” said Arlington, Va., resident Josh Holly, a principal at the lobby firm. He’s volunteering to help get out the vote for GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney in the state. “The big thing right now is encouraging those you’ve already identified as supporters to go out and vote,” he said. Holly, a former staffer for the House Armed Services Committee, said the mood at Romney’s Arlington “victory headquarters” was upbeat. “There was very good energy,” he said. Across the country in the milder climes of Phoenix, Holly’s Podesta Group colleague Oscar Ramirez spent the day wrapping up an almost two-week volunteer gig with the Senate campaign of Democrat Richard Carmona. “I’m enjoying the 85-degree weather with no humidity,” Ramirez said by phone Tuesday. The lobbyist said he became acquainted with the candidate at the beginning of this year when he helped Carmona put on events in D.C. “I’ve done a little bit of finance work, a little bit of field work,” said Ramirez, who, like his colleagues, took vacation time from the firm to volunteer. On Election Day, he said, he served as a roving voter protection attorney, investigating such incidents as why a Spanish-language notice from the Maricopa County Board of Elections gave the incorrect date (Nov. 8 instead of Nov. 6) for voting. He planned to return Wednesday to D.C. Two other Podesta lobbyists, Republicans Tom Sparkman and Zach Olson, were in Kentucky working on a Congressional race, though they declined to name which one. “We wanted to get down to the grass-roots and help out,” Sparkman said. “We’re going door to door, making phone calls. Anything we can do.” Holly, who has spent the runup to recent elections in such battleground states as Pennsylvania and North Carolina, said he felt lucky to be able to volunteer in his own backyard. “I feel like I’m doing my part,” he said. “It also gives you that personal interaction with voters. When you work in Washington, it’s important to interact with them so I know what’s on their mind.”