K Street Comes to Mr. Brown
Lobbyists Work to Forge Ties With Incoming Senator
Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s arrival on Capitol Hill on Thursday had all the pomp and circumstance of a celebrity jaunt. The Massachusetts Republican was greeted with applause in the Russell Senate Office Building, had an invitation to meet with Senate leadership and was swarmed by a gaggle of reporters at every turn.
Brown has also recently started gaining attention on K Street, where GOP lobbyists are quietly reaching out to the man who has given their party its 41st vote in the Senate.
But he didn’t always wear the crown of Mr. Popularity among Washington, D.C., insiders. In November, as a little-known, long-shot GOP candidate trying to wrest the Senate seat long held by Edward Kennedy (D), Brown wasn’t able to gain enough traction among the check-cutting crowd to hold his own fundraiser in Washington. However, during that visit, he did catch the eye — and a $5,000 check — of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
“This is the first candidate in our lifetime that had nothing to do with Washington,— said Republican lobbyist Ron Kaufman, who backed Brown’s run.
Kaufman, a national committeeman from Massachusetts, has known Brown since 2004. “This race was totally, honestly a grass-roots campaign,— Kaufman said.
Brown, who has tried to distance himself from the Washington elite, continued to make that pitch as he toured the Capitol last week.
“One of the things I heard throughout my state is people are outraged at the backroom deals,— Brown said. “People want good government, they want transparency, they want us to solve problems.—
Brown said that he will continue to live in Massachusetts full time and that he only plans to stay overnight in Washington when he absolutely has to.
Kaufman, a Dutko Worldwide principal who supported Brown by giving advice and contributing to his campaign, said that his involvement in Brown’s election had nothing to do with his role as a lobbyist in Washington.
“It was in spite of that,— Kaufman said.
Still, Kaufman was able to get some of his GOP friends to contribute to the relative unknown. Kaufman and Wayne Berman, the managing director of Ogilvy Government Relations who is close with McCain, helped organize a small contingency to contribute to Brown’s campaign.
Kaufman wasn’t the only lobbyist with Massachusetts GOP ties to support Brown.
Brad Card, who is also at Dutko, and Bob Marsh, a former Bay State legislator who is now a lobbyist at the OB-C Group, also put their lot in with Brown.
Card was an early Brown supporter after his brother, Andy Card, opted not to run.
Brad Card also downplayed K Street’s involvement in Brown’s electoral success.
“He knew a handful of Republicans down here — certainly we all wanted to see Scott win,— Card said. “But nationally it was tough to be a Republican in Massachusetts and get attention.—
The National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce both supported Brown.
The chamber weighed in on behalf of Brown, running television and radio ads in the runup to the special election in which Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley.
After a call in mid-December, the NFIB’s Washington leadership decided to endorse and cut a $2,000 political action committee check to Brown.
“He knows our state lobbyists and a lot of our members,— NFIB National Political Director Sharon Sussin said of the group’s endorsement. “He understands the issues that our members are facing.—
The NFIB also made more than 12,000 contacts with members to get out the vote and support Brown.
Sussin said she expects the NFIB to build on its relationship with Brown as he makes his way in Washington.
“We want to be there to work in tandem as he starts this new phase,— Sussin said.
That is likely just the beginning of interests courting Brown.
Given McCain’s strong support and his deep bench downtown, the former presidential nominee is expected to be quick to contribute and to help Brown navigate Washington.
McCain has a vast network of former staff and supportive K Streeters downtown, including former campaign aide John Green, Berman of Ogilvy Government Relations, Charlie Black of Prime Policy Group, Peter Madigan of Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart, and Todd Weiss of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.
Jessica Brady contributed to this report.