D.C. Lobbyists Spend Final Days Stumping

Posted October 29, 2008 at 4:17pm

Perhaps no Washington, D.C., contingent has taken a bigger beating on the campaign trail than the lobbying corps.

Blamed for everything from high gasoline prices to an ailing economy to the overarching “what’s wrong with Washington,” K Streeters have been banned from donating money to the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and have faced restrictions on high-level advisory roles with both presidential camps.

But don’t be fooled into thinking this will keep hidden the political junkie that resides in every lobbyist. Foregoing their power suits and loafers for casual clothes and sneakers, they are out there — in the battleground states and on the ground in hotly contested House and Senate races — going door to door for their party and working the phones to woo voters to the polls.

Even those who have eschewed the outside-the-Beltway scene are busy dialing clients and contacts around the country to boost last-minute giving to Congressional candidates locked in expensive airways.

“I’m doing all of the above — canvassing, phone banks, raising money” said Sandi Stuart, a Democratic lobbyist at Clark & Weinstock who is in the trenches for Obama in Sarasota, Fla., where she owns a home. “I’ve enlisted my whole family, my husband, niece and nephew and neighbors and friends. The enthusiasm out there is pretty great.”

Stuart has already donated the maximum amount permitted by law to Congressional candidates, but she is pressing clients and their political action committees to release money immediately.

Starting today, Republican lobbyist Sam Geduldig of Clark Lytle & Geduldig will camp out in Columbus, Ohio, doing all he can for his party’s White House nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), and for Congressional candidate Steve Stivers, who is vying to hold the 15th district for the GOP now that Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce is retiring.

“It won’t be glamorous work,” Geduldig said. “You never know what they need you to do. Sometimes it’s putting up yard signs. It could be phones.”

Even though the idea of traipsing around neighborhoods and knocking on prospective voters’ doors sounds daunting, Geduldig said it’s worth the trouble. “It’s never as bad as you think it is,” he said. “If no one does it, it’ll never get done. It’s important that a lot of people do these little jobs.”

Democratic lobbyist Andy Rosenberg, a veteran campaigner who ran for Congress in Virginia, decamped for West Virginia, the home state of his wife, Jenny.

“All my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, are going somewhere to pitch in,” said Rosenberg, who works at Ogilvy Government Relations. “Everybody wants to be a part of it and go to a swing state.”

On Election Day, Rosenberg said he plans to be back in Virginia helping the campaign of Democrat Gerry Connolly, who is in a race to take the seat currently held by Rep. Tom Davis (R).

GOP lobbyist Jeff Taylor of Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations helped distribute pro-McCain literature door to door in his neighborhood of Mt. Vernon, Va. “I enjoyed doing it, and perhaps I got a few more people to vote for Sen. McCain,” he said.

Not everyone gets into the spirit of working on campaigns, though.

Tom Hogan of F/S Capitol Consulting said he got his fill of electioneering while working for his father’s campaigns in the Rhode Island statehouse. “I don’t go somewhere and live on a couch and eat pizza and work the phones,” he quipped. “I was the only kid that didn’t play Little League because I was working for his campaign.”

But he is busy boning up on potential freshman Members of Congress. “We’re going to have at least 50 new Members of Congress,” he said. “I’m studying these guys so that when they get appointed to committees, I have some idea of what they are about.”

He is also pitching in to help raise cash. Democrats like Hogan and Steve Elmendorf, who plan to stay in D.C. raising money, say the effort is paying off.

“There’s a fairly high degree of interest among my clients to get on board with some of these Democrats who are going to win and to raise their profile with leadership by helping in open seats,” said Elmendorf, who runs Elmendorf Strategies. “It’s better to help before somebody wins than after for relationship building. People care who helped them.”

Rich Gold, who runs the lobbying practice at Holland & Knight, said several of his team members are taking personal or vacation time to hit the trail. “For those of us not doing campaign work, we have our comprehensive memo on the transition,” he said. “There is a lot of client counseling going on.”

He added that most current senior executives weren’t around in the early 1990s, the last time Democrats were in control of all three branches of government (an assumption corporate America is making for 2009 in these final days of the campaign).

“You know, it’s like apes taking over the planet with guns; they want to know, ‘What does it mean?’” said Gold, who worked in the Clinton administration. “Some heavily regulated industry clients, they want to know how to respond in a way that’s different from what they’ve been doing the last eight years.”