Rep. Elise Stefanik‘s congressional campaign invited donors in Washington to an in-person fundraising lunch as her House leadership bid ramped up and former President Donald Trump was about to endorse her.
The event, set for Wednesday according to an invitation obtained by Bloomberg Government, marks the start of the New York Republican’s new relationship with K Street after ascending last week to her party’s No. 3 position in the chamber.
Stefanik enters the job without a large network of lobbyists in Washington, with only one former aide now at a government relations firm. That’s about to change thanks to her role as GOP conference chair. Parker Hamilton Poling and Matt Bravo, onetime top leadership aides now working downtown, have been communicating with her and guiding her through the leadership process.
“With Elise as a new member of leadership, she will absolutely get new personal donors who focus on leadership members,” said Bravo, a former director of floor operations for House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and now a lobbyist at S-3 Group. “She already has a strong fundraising apparatus, but it will get better.”
Stefanik created a robust political fundraising operation for both herself and her leadership political action committee, called E-PAC, which aims to elect Republican women and has attracted some lobbyists into her donor rolls. Her campaign raised $1.1 million in the first quarter of the year, the 13th most of any House Republican, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Her fundraiser, Cara Mason, didn’t respond to an inquiry about whether demand has increased. Stefanik’s office declined to comment for this story.
“If you’ve been fortunate enough to work with her in the past, you know how she’ll operate the conference and be able to have access to her,” said Ozzie Palomo, a founding partner of Chartwell Strategy Group who’s held fundraisers for Stefanik. “If you haven’t, you’re probably figuring out how to touch base with her.”
Some of her most recent lobbyist donors include Ed Kutler, of counsel at public affairs firm Subject Matter; Kevin O’Neill, chair of the legislative practice group at Arnold & Porter; defense lobbyist Josh Holly of Holly Strategies; and Sam Geduldig of CGCN Group, who’s known her for years.
As much as lobbyists will want to reach out to Stefanik, she’ll in turn likely reach out for help.
“She understands the value of having folks downtown who are on the same page as you, who are chatting with clients and other downtown folks and reinforcing the message that you are putting out to your colleagues,” said Poling, a partner at Harbinger Strategies who previously served as executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee and chief of staff to then-Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).
Stefanik’s former chief of staff Lindley Kratovil Sherer works at top lobbying firm Invariant. But as for her breadth of connections, advocates who know Stefanik say her committee assignments — Intelligence, Education and Labor, Armed Services — hadn’t made her a focus for lobbyists. They don’t have the same policy reach and broad K Street appeal as panels such as the Energy and Commerce or Ways and Means committees.
“She’s serious about policy and one of these worker bees,” Kutler said. “And when you come to Washington with that in your nature, working the K Street circuit is not what you see as your first job in Washington.”
Meanwhile, her turn from the moderate profile she entered Congress with in 2015 to being a vocal supporter of Trump, who pushed for Rep. Liz Cheney‘s (R-Wyo.) ouster, has lost her some K Street allies, according to two lobbyists who were close to Stefanik but distanced themselves in recent months. They asked to remain anonymous to discuss the relationship.
Most of the momentum will flow in the other direction, however, allies said.
“It’s no surprise to me, and I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone, that she’s in leadership,” Kutler said. “I have to say, I would have preferred for her to get into leadership in a different manner. But I think it’s great that she is in leadership because she’s so capable.”
“She’s probably going to have a lot of people who want to be helpful now that she’s in leadership, and they’ll be perfectly happy to get on board,” Poling said.
Stefanik has branded herself as an ambitious policymaker, and those close to her see the move into leadership as only the first step toward more senior roles, even if not in leadership.
She reportedly said she’ll only serve as conference chair through the 2022 elections. Lobbyists who’ve spoken with her say her focus remains on committee work — and that she hopes to be chair of the Education and Labor panel.
Bravo noted that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) used the perch to become the top Republican on Energy and Commerce, and former Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) leveraged it to become chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
“Conference chair is a good spot to jump to either ranking member or chairman of a committee — or potentially a different leadership position,” Bravo said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Megan R. Wilson in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org