Remember when Obama was tough on lobbyist?
In January 2009, the president introduced new ethics rules diminishing the influence that special interest lobbyists have on legislators and White House officials. But that was so last years.
These days, the president is not only holding secret meetings with lobbyists, but his regulatory reforms have created a sub-industry on K Street, the DC locale where most lobbying firms reside. These firms will likely reap billions of dollars as they help businesses figure out how to stay within the bounds of Washington's new red tape.
For all his anti-lobbyist rhetoric, President Barack Obama has done more than almost anyone to help K Street fatten its wallet.
First came his push to pass health care and Wall Street reforms, an epic two-year stretch of bruising legislative battles that saw lobbying revenues skyrocket.
But the boom didn’t end when the legislation became law.
Now, regulators are writing hundreds of new rules required by the twin reforms, creating a bonanza of new business for Washington lobbyists positioned to help companies influence and comply with the new regulations.
Call it K Street’s second stimulus.
Nick Allard, a senior partner in Patton Boggs’s lobbying and regulatory practice, said that regulatory work is more important now than ever for lobbying firms.
“What is new is sort of a sheer scope and magnitude of these new [regulatory] programs," he said. "They’re larger and come in combination in a way that’s unprecedented in any recent memory. The sheer volume of work to be done is breathtaking."
Allard went on to say, “Fundamentally, regulatory work is not sexy, but it’s very, very important."
It's also very lucrative, which is why lobbying firms are actively trying to recruit new regulatory clients.
Those clients, who are seeking advice about new regulations, will bring in two to three times more revenue to lobbying firms than traditional lobbying will. That traditional lobbying, which typically involves representing a client's interests to lawmakers, brought in about $3.5 billion to the industry last year. Insiders think that regulatory work will bring in at least that much--and maybe more.
According to Politico, one lobbyist said that "his lobbying work was down $165,000, but his regulatory work increased by $635,000."
The president may talk tough on the lobbies, but his policy initiatives have emboldened them. “God bless Barack Obama," as one lobbyist said, "he’s helping the lobbyists."