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Guiding clients through new programs created to address the coronavirus crisis propelled law and lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck over Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld as Washington’s top-earning lobbying shop in the second quarter of this year.
Brownstein disclosed its highest quarterly lobbying receipts ever, taking in nearly $13 million from the period, which runs from April through June. That was a 15% spike over the first three months of 2020. The firm reported $10.1 million in lobbying revenue during 2019’s second quarter. Lobbying disclosure filings to Congress for the second quarter are due by the end of Monday.
“Helping convey to members of Congress and the administration the points of view about where a program is not fulfilling the needs of various companies is part of the reason why we continue to grow,” said Marc Lampkin, the managing partner of Brownstein’s Washington office, touting the bipartisan team the firm has been building.
Clients are also paying close attention to the Trump administration’s executive actions, such as those on China and pharmaceuticals, Lampkin said.
Akin Gump, which had been K Street’s top earner since 2014, brought in $12.4 million in lobbying fees during the second quarter, a slight drop from the previous three months, but a 20% jump from the $10.2 million it earned during the same period last year.
“The level of activity that we have seen over the last six months is unprecedented,” said Hunter Bates, the co-leader of Akin Gump’s public law and policy practice. “A major driver of this work has of course been the ongoing pandemic, which continues to have an enormous effect on the economy and touches pretty much every sector and industry.”
Dan Murphy, the corporate counsel at lobbying and public affairs firm BGR Group, said “the phone never stopped ringing” as companies of all sizes wanting to hire a lobbyist for the first time due to Washington’s coronavirus response. The firm earned $8 million in lobbying revenue over the last three months, a 9% increase over the same period in 2019. The firm earned $7.8 million in the first quarter of 2020.
Covid-19, Racial Justice
Action in Washington to combat the pandemic spurred large revenue jumps among almost 20 lobbying firms during the second quarter, according to firms that provided figures to Bloomberg Government on Monday.
Seven of those top-earning firms earned 10% or more in lobbying revenues from April through June compared to the first three months of the year. That includes Cornerstone Government Affairs, Ballard Partners, and Covington & Burling, which took in $6.9 million, $6.5 million, and $4.5 million, respectively.
Muftiah McCartin, the co-chair of Covington’s public policy practice group, said that although Covid-19 drove most of their work, clients “are calling on us to help assess and navigate broader social policies such as environmental sustainability and police reform.”
Stewart Verdery, founder of Monument Advocacy, said the issue of systemic racism was also a high-priority discussion item for corporate clients who wanted members of Congress “to know what they’re doing on their own accord” on racial justice issues, including making changes to their boards or donating to causes.
Monument Advocacy, which also has a public affairs component that does not show up in its lobbying disclosures, has kept earnings steady over the last year. In the second quarter of 2020, the firm took in more than $2.1 million in lobbying fees, compared to almost $2.2 million during the same time in 2019.
More than a dozen firms increased their second-quarter revenues by at least 10% from the same period in 2019. For example, K&L Gates brought in $5.1 million during the second quarter, up 15% from the same time in 2019.
The pandemic-imposed work-from-home policies changed advocacy slightly to make it more proactive, said Karishma Shah Page, the co-leader of the firm’s policy practice, which has been busier than ever.
No Election Pause
“There was sort of a serendipity that came from our work — it was hanging out in the Longworth cafeteria where we got to sort of run into people,” she said, referring to the House office building. “And the reality is we’re in a much different environment, and what that requires is intentionality and structure in how we do everything.”
Lobbyists said clients are increasingly looking over the horizon, beyond Covid-19 relief packages, and keeping an eye on spending bills, tax extenders, authorizing legislation for defense and surface transportation, and issues such as pension changes. Unlike many presidential election years, lobbyists don’t predict much of a slowdown this year.
Holland & Knight, which took in $7.2 million in lobbying fees during the past three months, is already beginning to talk with clients about what could happen if power shifts in the Senate or the White House.
“People are prepping for the end game, and there’s nothing more exciting than the lame duck setting where you have a change in presidents. It’s so unpredictable, it’s like being in the water with a tiger shark,” said Rich Gold, leader of the firm’s public policy and regulation practice.
The firm increased its revenues 12% over the first quarter. Numbers are only expected to grow, as Gold said Holland & Knight signed more than 50 new lobbying clients since mid-March.
To contact the reporter on this story: Megan R. Wilson in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org