Firms Rack Up Record Revenues as Lobbying on Biden Agenda Surges

  • Lobbying firms filing 2nd quarter disclosure forms Tuesday
  • Infrastructure, covid, spending bills driving big cash boost

Washington’s lobbying shops generated record-breaking revenues in the first half of the year as they rushed to meet client requests on massive legislation moving through Congress including Covid-19 relief, infrastructure, and appropriations measures.

“When lawmakers are debating bills with trillion dollar prize tags, it is the rare client that isn’t working 24/7 with us,” Stewart Verdery, chief executive of lobbying and public affairs firm Monument Advocacy, said in an email. His firm took in $4.89 million during the first half of this year, a 12% increase over the same period in 2020.

Tuesday at midnight is the deadline for firms to submit filings to the Senate disclosing how much they earned in the second quarter, spanning April through June. Twenty-two top firms provided those numbers to Bloomberg Government ahead of the deadline. Almost all of them posted gains over last year.

Most firms who provided their figures to BGOV also fared better in the second quarter of 2021 than the first three months of the year, including law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight, which earned $8.48 million in the second quarter, a 33% jump from its first-quarter 2021 revenues.

The firm collected $15.88 million in the first half of this year, beating its own prior revenue figures. Rich Gold, head of the firm’s lobbying practice, said in a phone interview that in addition to dealing with elements of the must-pass bills, the firm is doing a lot of work on climate issues, including activity on clean energy standards, carbon sequestration funding, and tax credits for renewable energy.

Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg
Pete Buttigieg, U.S. secretary of transportation, walks with Dorval Carter, president of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), during a tour of the 95th/Dan Ryan L train station in Chicago. The Biden administration’s push for an infrastructure package has increased demand for lobbyists.

Breaking Records

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck ranked first of Washington’s top firms by revenue, earning $26.61 million in the first half of 2021 and widening the gap between it and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which has spent much of the last seven years at the top.

Both firms have been growing exponentially over the last several years, with Brownstein roughly doubling its midyear haul since 2017.

“You’ve had successive administrations and a volatile congressional situation with lots of activity going on—almost unprecedented, unpredictable activity,” said Marc Lampkin, who’s led Brownstein’s Washington office since 2014. “It’s 1,000 plates spinning at once.”

“You’re best able to respond to that by hiring a multi-faceted, bipartisan, bicameral firm” like Brownstein, he said in a phone interview

Akin Gump continued to break its own revenue records as well, earning $26.25 million in the first half of this year, including more than $13.7 million in lobbying fees during the second quarter of 2021—its first-ever quarter above $13 million and a 10% increase over second quarter 2020.

“The story of the last quarter is the significant activity driven by the pandemic response, the China competitiveness bill and the infrastructure packages—both the bipartisan bill and the bill Democrats are pushing via reconciliation,” said Brian Pomper, who co-leads Akin Gump’s public law and practice.

He predicted that health policy advocacy—an area where the firm has made new hires in recent months—will thrive this year with debates over drug pricing, the health-related infrastructure proposals, and negotiations around Food and Drug Administration user-fee agreements.

“Even with the upcoming August recess, I expect we’ll see continued high levels of activity on the Hill throughout the summer and into the fall,” Pomper said in an email.

Ambitious Agenda

K&L Gates, a law and lobbying firm with more than 200 advocacy clients, also posted its best mid-year numbers ever, grossing $10 million in lobbying revenue during the first half of 2021.

“Responding to a once-in-a century crisis, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats continue to embark on one of the most ambitious policy agendas in recent history,” Karishma Page, the co-leader of the firm’s public policy and law practice, said in an email. “The impact will be far-reaching across the economy and society, possibly for decades to come. Fates are being written. The time to engage is now.”

The firm’s clients include car rental company Avis Budget Group, Inc., Starbucks Corp., and Bytedance Inc., the parent company of social media app TikTok. They also lobby for space flight company Blue Origin LLC, which launched its owner Jeff Bezos into space Tuesday.

K&L Gates is paying attention to President Joe Biden’s wide-ranging executive actions on supply chain, climate, and competition issues, and watching federal agencies get staffed up.

“With political personnel now seated in many of the departments and agencies, we’re seeing the regulatory work pick up as well,” Page said in an interview.

Big Winner

One of 2021’s biggest winners on K Street has been Invariant, a firm founded by Democratic lobbyist Heather Podesta, who’s grown it into a bipartisan powerhouse. In the first six months of the year, it took in $14.16 million, a 43% increase over the same time in 2020.

The firm has signed 28 new clients in 2021, including Airbus Americas Inc.,the National Medicinal Cannabis Coalition, and wellness test company Everlywell, Inc., and had only six client terminations.

Tiber Creek Group, which recently rebranded from Peck Madigan Jones, boosted its midyear lobbying revenues by 40% over last year, bringing in $11.59 million versus $8.27 million in the first six months of 2020.

Forbes Tate Partners, Crossroads Strategies, and Thorn Run Partners all had increased lobbying revenue of more than 30%, compared to the January through June period in 2020, bringing in $12.14 million, $10.39 million, and $8.9 million, respectively.

BGR Group took in nearly $16.9 million in lobbying revenue during the first half of 2021, compared to about $15.8 million at the same point in 2020.

“It hasn’t slowed down,” Loren Monroe, the head of BGR Group’s state & local practice, said in a phone interview . “I thought Covid was going to be the apex of busyness. But it’s continued. It’s been very steady.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan R. Wilson in Washington at mwilson@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com; Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com

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