lobbying

Big business, tech, health care lead K Street spending in 2019
Spending was highest in fourth quarter as Congress passed budget bills and updated NAFTA

Lobbyists say they’re looking at a post-impeachment crunch on major legislative priorities this year before the elections consume lawmakers’ attentions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Big business, big tech and medical interests were K Street’s top players last year as those industries spent millions of dollars on federal lobbying in the final months of 2019, while lawmakers and the administration wrapped up spending and trade measures.

With the 2020 elections expected to consume lawmakers’ attention this summer and fall, lobbyists say they’re looking at a post-impeachment crunch on major 2020 priorities. Some clients already are gaming out a possible lame-duck session as well as a potentially revamped federal government in 2021.

K Street firms post big earnings gains for 2019
Trade, health care and immigration issues paced lobbying spending last year

Lobbying firms are working with clients about their agendas for 2021, which will be hugely dependent upon who wins the White House this November. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

K Street’s top-tier firms posted sizable gains last year, fueled by technology, pharmaceutical and big-business interests concerned with such policy matters as trade, health care, taxation and government spending.

And lobbyists say impeachment proceedings and the 2020 campaigns haven’t yet derailed the influence industry’s agenda this year.

Climate-focused Democrats hope for November reward
They seek to solidify themselves as the party of climate action

Jane Fonda, center, and Susan Sarandon, red scarf, march toward the Capitol on Friday during a weekly rally to call for action on climate change. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats know that their “comprehensive” climate plans are unlikely to see the light of day in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate and face vetoes by a president who has at times rejected the scientific consensus on global warming.

But there’s a strategy afoot to solidify Democrats’ election-year banner as the party of climate action and lure young, independent and even Republican voters disgruntled with the Trump administration’s retreat on environmental issues, analysts say.

Big business lobby to push trade, data, immigration in 2020
Despite impeachment, the chamber believes Congress and the Trump administration still may seek compromise on major matters

US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue speaks at US Chamber of Commerce in Washington. The top spender on federal lobbying plans to push for a full agenda this year that includes free trade, data privacy and immigration overhaul. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Noting the “extraordinary time” of political turmoil and impeachment running alongside the 2020 campaigns, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue nevertheless said his group, the top spender on federal lobbying, would push for a full agenda this year that includes free trade, data privacy and immigration overhaul.

Even with the expected legislative stalemate of a presidential election year, he said the chamber believed Congress and the Trump administration still may seek compromise on major matters, including funding for infrastructure projects.

Trump administration proposal would ease environmental impact reviews for federal projects
Proposal raises stakes for environmentalists fearful of what changes could mean for efforts to combat climate change

A Trump administration proposal would expand the number of projects like pipelines and fossil fuel drilling sites that are eligible to avoid comprehensive environmental impact studies. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

US wine and cosmetic importers fear harm in response to French digital services tax
USTR proposes tariffs up to 100 percent on French products after France imposed 3 percent tax on US tech companies

A worker collects grapes in September 2019 in a vineyard near Rauzan in the Entre-Deux-Mers region near Bordeaux, southwestern France. The U.S Trade Representative wants to impose tariffs on French products from wine and cheese to cosmetics and cookware because of a tax that France imposed on U.S. companies providing digital services. (Georges Gobet/AFP via Getty Images)

Hundreds of wine merchants and other importers delivered a common complaint to the U.S. Trade Representative ahead of a Tuesday hearing on proposed retaliatory tariffs for France’s tax on digital services: Our products should not be collateral damage in a trade war over services.

“I know that both the Digital Tax and the Airbus subsidies are by all accounts unfair, but our business and many, many others right here in the US(!) will be collateral damage to other industries that we have nothing to do with,” Douglas Polaner, a wine importer in Mt. Kisco, New York, complained in comments filed in the pre-hearing docket.

South Dakota tribe clears hemp plan but governor opposes industry
South Dakota is one of three states that don’t allow production of industrial hemp

Hemp flower on display at the Tennessee Grown booth at the Southern Hemp Expo in Franklin, Tenn., in September 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Flandreau Santee Sioux cleared a major hurdle when the Agriculture Department approved its plan for growing industrial hemp on reservation land, but the tribe may face other obstacles in a state where laws still prohibit hemp farming.

Gov. Kristi Noem, a former Republican House member, vetoed legislation in 2019 that would have amended state law to allow South Dakota farmers to grow hemp after Congress legalized the plant and its products in the 2018 farm bill. Federal law had previously treated hemp, like its botanical cousin marijuana, as an illegal substance although hemp has a lower concentration of the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Joel Jankowsky, longtime Akin Gump lobbyist, exits K Street

Joel Jankowsky, a longtime fixture on K Street, is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When Joel Jankowsky left Capitol Hill in 1977 to set up shop on K Street, his transition through the revolving door seems bizarre by the influence industry’s current norms: He lobbied both parties.

“The whole thing has changed so drastically,” Jankowsky said recently in his office at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a 42-year gig that he’s retiring from at year’s end.

The swamp successfully boils and bubbles in 2019
Lobbying clients took some losses, but corporate interests will end the year largely unscathed

K Street experienced some notable fails in 2019, as well as some big wins. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

K Street lobbying clients racked up some notable defeats this year: No return of earmarks. Drugmakers lost out in a new trade deal. And that mega-infrastructure package? Never happened.

But despite jitters over divided government and impeachment theatrics, corporate interests will exit year three of the Trump era largely unscathed, and some are downright giddy as they head into the potentially fraught 2020 campaign season.

US irks Mexico with a labor detail in trade implementing bill
US oversight of Mexican factories is a sensitive issue

Jesus Seade, Mexico’s top trade negotiator, said he was surprised to find a provision in legislation to implement the USMCA that would post U.S. Labor Department officials in Mexico to ensure his country was complying with the agreement. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images file photo)

A seemingly small detail in the 239-page implementing legislation for a revised U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement has stirred objections from Mexico as the House prepares to vote this week on the pact. The legislation proposes more than $2 billion in U.S. money to enforce the agreement and to deal with its consequences.

Jesus Seade, Mexico’s undersecretary of foreign affairs for North America, said over the weekend he was surprised to find that the bill calls for posting up to five Labor Department personnel to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to oversee his country’s compliance with labor provisions. Seade said a separate packet of revisions to the proposed USMCA signed by the three countries on Dec. 10 doesn’t note that number.