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Politics & Government

New Congress, New Laws: New Life For Lobbyists


This is WEEKEND EDITION From NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. President Obama has vowed to move forward on immigration through executive action if Congress doesn't pass a bill. And just a few days ago, The New York Times reported the president could act as soon as this week. That could disrupt the postelection narrative in Washington that the Republicans, who won control of both houses of Congress, can end the legislative gridlock.

Lobbyists are hoping that's the case. Marc Lampkin is a Republican lobbyist with the bipartisan group Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. And he told me that if Congress can pass more bills, that means more work for people like him.

MARC LAMPKIN: I think there's some consensus on we need to look at energy policy. You see in the last, you know, two, three years, this emergence of fracking. I think tax reform, you know, it's big and it's comprehensive, and it's complicated. But I think you're going to people that, in a bipartisan way, are going to say let's roll up our sleeves in all of these issues. The commonality of the issues we just - I just mentioned is that they're not partisan at their core.

MARTIN: So this may be an obvious question, but can you explain why the potential of more legislation getting passed is a good thing for you, Marc Lampkin, lobbyist?

LAMPKIN: Well, it goes to the way things work. So the last year and a half, if you think about it, a lot of companies - and really, not just companies - trade associations, interest groups that represent kind of grass roots - have turned their attention away, in some degree, from the day-to-day operations of the Congress because there's not a lot going on. So if you think about it, if people see nothing's going on, they retrench.

MARTIN: So the last few years have been slow for you.

LAMPKIN: Slower because companies are saying why am I spending money and there's no return on that because there's no issues to litigate. Now, if you think about it, you've got Boehner and McConnell saying we want to roll up our sleeves so that means that lots more of the - this is a bad word - pedestrian issues will start to move. Then businesses, we're going to come back to Washington and say, hey, I've got a perspective on that. I've got an opinion. And that actually is what the bread and butter of what lobbyists due. So if Congress is doing more, there's more interest that become implicated in the impacts of their policy, which means that my phone rings more, and I'm busier.

MARTIN: But you know that a lot of people's concern about Washington and the ire that a lot of people have is the idea that there's so much money in Washington, and that people who get paid, like yourself, have an outsized level of influence in those halls on Capitol Hill.

LAMPKIN: There's always that danger. But I'll tell you, you know, the one thing the people don't realize, 20 years ago, lobbying was very static. There was guys like me, you know, who had on their fancy suits going up to the Hill, talking to members of Congress and the staff. And we had a great advantage.

Now I have to. And I tell my clients all the time, lobbying is a lot more dynamic. It is the rare member of Congress that not only doesn't have a Facebook page, but doesn't look at it or monitor it every day. Almost like the Dow Jones because they want to see what their constituents have to say about what the issue of the day is. You know, there's been a broader democratization of advocacy because of the Internet. So I think some of the criticisms and observations are certainly fair. But I think if people looked at it with the kind of a broader lens, I think they would understand that there's a lot more variables that go into the legislative advocacy progress then there used to be, you know, even just a mere, you know, 25 years ago.

MARTIN: Marc Lampkin is a Republican lobbyist with the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck here in Washington, D.C. He's getting ready to go to work. Mr. Lampkin, thank you so much for taking the time.

LAMPKIN: No, thank you for having me, really enjoyed it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.