A quarter-century after it was published, Showdown at Gucci Gulch remains the seminal book about the high-stakes, big-money world of Washington lobbying. The ways of cable TV advertising, grass-roots email crusading and even political fundraising have all changed substantially, but the lobbyists fundamentally simple job has not: Persuade lawmakers and regulators to do what the client wants.
A divided government and a budget impasse mean few openings for pro-active victory. Instead, lobbyists are trying to win on defense.
When about 1,800 hospital executives came to Washington in April for the American Hospital Associations annual conference, they were handed three pages of talking points and encouraged to buttonhole lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Potential cuts to Medicaid and Medicare were among the top items that hospital officials were told to discuss with their members of Congress.
The long-running battle over who will build the engines for the militarys next generation of fighter jets is in many ways a classic Washington clash, with scores of billions of dollars in business at stake and well-oiled advocacy machines playing the usual politics of Pentagon procurement.
The nations retailers won one of their biggest and most surprising victories in decades back in May 2010. That was when the Senate voted overwhelmingly and with hardly any advance notice to curb what banks take every time one of their debit cards gets used pennies from consumer pockets that the store owners say properly belong in their cash registers. When the language, which instructed the Federal Reserve to set lower limits for these so-called swipe fees, made it into the financial services regulatory rewrite signed by President Obama in July, champagne corks popped at the National Retail Federations headquarters, situated just around the corner from the National Archives.
A truce of sorts has governed Washingtons eclectic transportation lobby for the past two decades. Whenever Congress has considered rewriting the law that authorizes federal surface transportation programs, the roadbuilders, the transit operators, the state highway departments, the environmentalists, the bicyclists, the Chamber of Commerce, the trade unions, the preservationists and the truckers as well as all the other groups with an interest in the highway bill, as its known colloquially have for the most part joined hands rather than fought one another.
While the rest of the economy stumbled or slumbered, 2010 was a banner year for the American renewable-energy business. Fueled by billions in tax incentives created by the economic stimulus package the year before, revenue for the manufacturers and installers of solar panels grew by an astonishing 67 percent, in the estimate of the industrys trade association. And, after last years installation across the country of new turbines capable of generating 5,000 megawatts of power, the American Wind Energy Association felt comfortable declaring that air was now comparable to natural gas in cost-effectiveness at generating new electricity.
Two years ago was a particularly perilous time for the chemical industry, which has long sought to fend off legislation that would impose strict new security measures at plants.
For more than a year, the Federal Communications Commission has been warning that the country will not be able to reap all the potential rewards of the smartphone revolution unless the providers of Internet service get to buy access from the government to much more of the broadcast spectrum and fast. Already, their networks are starting to buckle under the rapidly escalating volume of video, audio and other dense files of data. To help solve the burgeoning bandwidth problem, among the airwaves the agency has in mind are the ones currently occupied by television broadcasters.