Sprawling Infrastructure Plan Spurs Race to Snap Up Lobbyists

  • More than 120 unions, companies and municipalities seek help
  • Needs stretch from Shakespeare company to electric vehicles

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The race is on to hire lobbying firms to secure a piece of a massive infrastructure package, with municipalities, companies and others seeking funds for everything from a planned expressway in California to a Shakespeare festival in New York.

So far this year, more than 120 new lobbying client registrations mention the word “infrastructure,” with municipal governments and public utilities comprising more than a quarter of the new clients — the most new registrations of any other sector, a Bloomberg Government analysis of filings with the Senate shows.

The construction, manufacturing and transportation industries were also prevalent among those clamoring for Washington representation as the bill comes together.

“There seems to be consensus among Republicans and Democrats that we ought to do something on infrastructure, so that’s going to drive interest,” said Marc Lampkin, the managing partner of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s Washington office. “It’s really the battle about the numbers and the pay-for that ultimately provokes winners and losers.”

“When you talk about the scale and scope of what infrastructure definition is,” he said, “you’ve got three, four, or five lanes of interest that’s going to bring people to Washington to have their voices be heard.”

(Photo by: Dukas/Christian Heeb/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Demand is high for lobbyists to help secure a piece of President Joe Biden’s sprawling infrastructure plan. Pictured here are interstate highway bridges in Memphis.

The intensity of the lobbying effort underscores the high stakes for many of the local governments and construction industry, which are depending on federal largess to rebuild deteriorating transportation, water and sewer systems and plan for the demands of the coming decades.

Lobbyists say that clients need to be prepared to jump into the discussion as soon as possible because the definition of what infrastructure means is being drawn so broadly.

“You don’t want to show up late to the party,” said Chay English, a vice president at BGR Group who is on two of the firm’s new infrastructure clients, including Recycling Infrastructure Now, a coalition led by the American Beverage Association.

President Joe Biden released his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal on March 31, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has indicated that she wants to send the legislation to the Senate by July 4. The chairmen of the House and Senate committees considering the plan hope to move it through their panels by the end of May.

Earmark Return

The return of earmarks, funding directed to specific projects by lawmakers, could play a big role in the infrastructure discussion and spur lobbying by municipal governments and nonprofits that are eligible to receive them. More than two-dozen municipalities and public entities have brought on lobbying firepower this year. How many are seeking earmarks remains to be seen.

One group, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival has hired Spinnaker Government Relations specifically to work on “congressionally directed spending in the American Jobs Act to support infrastructure and environmental restoration.” The managing director of the festival declined to comment about the earmark request.

The festival, which has put on theater performances under a tent in Garrison, N.Y., almost 60 miles north of New York City, hopes to move in 2022 to a new location where a more permanent structure would be built.

Roads and bridges are also a focus of the lobbying blitz, with the Biden plan proposing $571 billion for transportation projects. The Capital Southeast Connector Joint Powers Authority, for example, has tapped former Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), now a lobbyist at K&L Gates, to advocate for a planned expressway near Sacramento on matters related to infrastructure funding. K&L Gates declined to comment.

Water Infrastructure

Improving water infrastructure is a top issue for a number of those seeking help from K Street. ENS Resources, run by former Environmental Protection Agency official Eric Sapirstein recently signed the Union Sanitary District in California.

“We have a once-in-a-century opportunity to really fundamentally change the way we we address our water infrastructure needs,” Sapirstein said.

Sapirstein, who specializes in advocating for clean water, said he wants to make certain that water “isn’t just the bridesmaid at the end of the process,” and receives as much attention as ports, roads, airports and railroads.

The Biden proposal calls for $111 billion to upgrade water systems, including $45 billion to replace lead pipes and $56 billion in drinking water grants and low-cost loans for states and municipalities.

Winter Haven, Fla. hired Ballard Partners, a bipartisan firm well known for its ties to the former Trump administration, to work on infrastructure priorities, including water project grants, transit funding and broadband. The city of Camarillo, Calif., County of Cumberland, N.C., the Tualatin Valley Water District in Oregon, Statesville, N.C. and the Centralina Council of Governments in North Carolina all mention water in their filings.

Electric Vehicles

Biden’s plan includes $174 billion to support and encourage electric vehicles.

Companies tied to electric vehicles have hired lobbyists, including Blink Charging Co., maker of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which hired A10 Associates. Commercial truck manufacturer Daimler Trucks North America LLC brought on Capitol Counsel to work on “electrification policy related to infrastructure.”

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Encouraging electric vehicle development is one of the priorities in the infrastructure package. A Toyota Prius is connected to a charging station in a Washington, D.C. parking garage.

The Zero Emission Transportation Association, an industry coalition that wants all vehicles to be electric-powered by 2030, recently hired its second lobbying firm since launching in November. The infrastructure package is one of the issues being its new firm, Lot Sixteen, is taking up.

Joe Britton, the coalition’s executive director, said that the new hire is a sign that it’s ramping up its activities. He acknowledged the “tight time frame” set up by congressional leadership spurred the hire, which includes two lobbyists who formerly worked on the Senate Natural Resources Committee. He said it’s “critical” to reach as many lawmakers as possible to espouse the benefits of electric vehicles.

In addition to reaching out to the traditional allies in Congress, Britton said that the group is trying to convert those who may not be natural supporters.

“We’re also going in and talking to members who may not think they like electric vehicles, but they really like domestic manufacturing, or really like out-competing China,” he said.

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; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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