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With the looming possibility of a Democratic takeover of Congress, Republican lobby shops, trade associations, and Fortune 50 companies are racing to recruit Democratic lobbyists to their companies, according to one local executive-search firm. When a potential power shift in Congress became clear last spring, phones at Christian & Timbers started to ring, recalls Beth Solomon, director of the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. On the other end of the line were big companies, law firms, associations, and public relations firms. They made it clear they wanted a good Democratic lobbyist, she says. So far, Christian & Timbers has placed about 10 Democratic lobbyists at law firms and businesses with searches in progress. That’s a big deal for the firm, Solomon says, adding that no Republican lobbyist has been sought after by clients or placed by the firm in a month. Some say the rise of the Democratic lobbyist, as a result of what is expected to be an about-face in Congress, could eventually topple the Republican-created K Street Project, the 1995 effort by the Republican Party to pressure Washington lobbyists into hiring Republicans for top positions in exchange for access to influential government officials. “It’s a new day,” Solomon says. “It’s been 12 years since Democrats were in control of the House. People are doing things differently now. I think the K Street Project died over the summer.” Within the past few months, Solomon has seen candidates with a clear Republican identity passed over in favor of candidates with a more bipartisan one. She says it boils down to companies wanting a lobbyist who would find it easy to successfully push through legislation in a changing Congress. “These companies are thinking about who’s going to get their issues through Congress if it turns Democratic,” she says. “They have to think about that and make their hiring decisions accordingly.” And that decision includes clients figuring out which type of Democrat they want, she says, adding that even if Democrats don’t take over Congress, people are still expecting the dynamics on Capitol Hill to change. The 2008 election is playing a big part, as well. “There may be some uncertainty as to who are the desirable Democrats,” Solomon says. “Do they want someone from the Clinton administration or someone tied to the recent Democrats in Congress?” Now in high demand, Democratic lobbyists are being baited with heavy cash. Most Democratic lobbyists with the right connections can expect to see a 50 percent increase in their salary, Solomon says. Salaries for Democratic lobbyists may range from $250,000 to $650,000. “The value of their stock has risen, and it will continue to do so,” says Solomon, who previously worked for the National Association of Manufacturers. Even so, Democratic lobbyists might not be so easily moved by the burgeoning interest in them. “Democrats may be hesitant to join a firm with a specific history or reputation,” Solomon says. “They might say, �Why should I join a Republican firm right now, when my guys are about to come into play?’ “ The fanfare over Democrats will more than likely heighten after the elections, once people have a solid grasp of the playing field, says Patrick Griffin, principal of the Griffin Williams lobby firm and co-director of the public affairs and advocacy institute at American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. Although Democratic lobbyists are relishing their sudden popularity, Solomon says, Christian & Timbers has also received numerous r�sum�s from Republicans in the Bush administration who are looking to work in house at large companies. “A trickle over the summer has turned into a steady downpour,” she says. Griffin says it’s not surprising that the possibility of a lame-duck presidency is influencing Republican staff in the Bush administration and Congress to seek other jobs. “I think people came to the end of a path, and they know that,” he says. But, he adds, that doesn’t mean Republican lobbyists will be sent to the unemployment line. “If lobby shops really understand the business, they have to be smart about what they need. Republicans are still going to have an extremely important role in how things get done,” says Griffin, who served as a White House assistant for legislative affairs to President Bill Clinton and has also worked for Senate Democrats. “Even [with] what was then bullying and bravado around K Street, smart companies and lobby shops still kept their Democratic ties.”
Osita Iroegbu can be contacted at [email protected].

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