A growth industry

A GROWTH INDUSTRY…. For all of the nation’s financial problems, lobbyists are still doing quite well.

Washington’s influence industry is humming steadily while the national economy is declining in what several economists predict will be the worst recession in 50 years.

More than half a million Americans lost jobs last month, and the value of most 401(k) plans plunged, yet government and public-relations pros in town expect to make a lot of money over the next two years.

Fueling the industry along K Street is an anticipation of sweeping changes that President-elect Obama and the newly emboldened Democratic Congress will pursue together — from ending Bush-administration tax cuts to enacting the broad health reforms proposed during the campaign.

Wright Andrews, a partner at a lobbying firm, told The Hill, “A number of interests are extremely concerned that they are going to be hit with legislation, and this includes a number of parties who have not had to worry in the Republican era and now see a major threat… Everyone I’ve talked to thinks it’s going to be a banner year. I’m just smiling, quite frankly, at what seems to be happening.”

It’s frustrating to think the only group of people able to thrive in this economy are K Street lobbyists, but this is not altogether unexpected. As Yglesias noted yesterday, “With business investment and consumer spending tanking, public sector expenditures are going to rise as a share of the economy even faster than they rise in absolute terms. And lots of firms are going to be cutting back, but already you can see that the hard-hit financial services and auto sectors are going to be counting on their government relations departments as key to their business models. Beyond that, I think big business trying to get its way in a Democratic-controlled Washington becomes more of a nakedly transactional affair — old-school influence peddling reigns supreme — with less ideological encrustment and profession of principle.”

Tony Podesta, a high-profile Democratic lobbyist, told The Hill that companies simply can’t afford to cut their lobbying budgets when policy makers are poised to pass landmark legislation. “Lobbyists and discounters may be the only people who grow,” he said.

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