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The requests just keep piling up: a fund-raiser here, a debt-retirement plea there, even a 2008 campaign coming-out party. Less than a month after the 2006 midterm elections, lobbyists and lawyers who were expecting the usual fund-raising reprieve have been sorely disappointed. Influence peddlers of both political stripes have seen a surge in requests for contributions in the wake of the November elections. Donor fatigue is now officially pass�. “There’s an increased sense of urgency in both new members and incumbents to get an early start on fund raising,” says Monica Notzon, head of the Bellwether Consulting Group, which advises candidates on political action committee fund raising. The firm counts newly appointed head of the Republican National Committee Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) and potential Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani among its clients. “What I’m finding is, because of the results of the last election, none of them want to be caught where they are not prepared, particularly on the House side.” Senators up for re-election in 2008 also have started to quietly lay the groundwork for fund-raising events. In December, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) will host a re-election campaign kickoff event that will drill home the importance of the 2008 races, Notzon says. As the Federal Election Commission’s end-of-the-year filing deadline closes in, lobbyists and law firms with PACs are weighing fund-raising requests from congressional members to whom they haven’t already given the maximum $2,100 individual or $5,000 PAC campaign contribution. “We’re starting to be in that process,” says John Jonas, head of Patton Boggs’ PAC. “We did an awful lot leading up to the election, and we’re a major bi-partisan firm, so there’s maybe less catching up than others.” As of the most recent filing deadline, on Oct. 18, Patton Boggs had donated $439,642 of the $503,396 it raised this cycle. Jonas says the firm’s PAC policy requires it to give equally to Democrats and Republicans. Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s Mike McNamara says he’s received dozens of fund-raising requests for early December. Holland & Knight and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s PACs have reserved $30,000 and $20,000, respectively, for candidate debt retirement for this election cycle. “Post-election, people are catching their breath, I hope, for at least 30 seconds,” says Joel Jankowsky, head of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s policy department. But Jankowsky concedes that there won’t be much breathing room: firms like his are planning new-member events come January and are fielding fund-raising requests from campaigns. GETTING ON BOARD But just as lobbyists keep paying out, so, too, are they using the new political environment to their advantage, inviting clients to briefing sessions on major issues that will be before the upcoming Congress, such as health care, financial services, and national security. Atlanta-based King & Spalding held a health care industry meeting with its clients in Washington to devise strategy on how to combat a potentially adverse political climate in the new Democratically controlled Congress. The firm counts health care giants Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, UCB Pharma Inc., and Health Choice Network among its clients. “The Democratic leaders and committee chairmen have intended to take a harder look at the pharmaceutical and medical-device industry both in terms of payment issues and Medicare payment reimbursement issues, FDA safety considerations, and regulations of that nature,” says Theodore Hester, a senior partner in King & Spalding’s government relations practice. Patton Boggs, which has large health care and Food and Drug Administration practices, held a briefing last Tuesday on the outlook of Democratic health care initiatives with Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) — who is expected to head the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee — and staffers from the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. And lobbyists also are using their connections with the newly appointed Democratic leadership to court clients. Buchanan Ingersoll’s Ronald Platt says the firm will host a fund-raiser with clients in its New York office on Dec. 9 for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The firm also is planning on hosting events in its Pittsburgh office for Pennsylvania Senator-elect Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and newly elected Pennsylvania Democratic House members. MORE REFORM TALK But all this flesh-pressing could come to an end sooner rather than later if some Democrats have their way. The Democratic leadership is expected to have an ethics-reform package finalized by January. So far, proposals have included banning members from accepting meals, gifts, and travel from lobbyists and requiring lobbyists to publicly disclose all contacts with lawmakers. Ethics-reform packages also have homed in on banning or increasing lawmakers’ disclosures of earmarks, which allow members to direct funds to specific legislative projects. While the proposals so far have fallen short of limiting campaign donations or fund raising, they could dramatically shift the way lobbyists interact with lawmakers and their staff. Lobbyists, however, continue to take a stoic attitude, at least in public, that no matter what the ethics-reform package entails, they will abide by the rules. “We’re not going to be in the practice of making members feel uncomfortable,” says Richard Gold, head of Holland & Knight’s lobbying practice. That stoicism may be well founded. Whether any reform measures are enacted is another matter altogether. After all, almost a year ago, Republicans talked up an expansive lobbying-reform proposal — and it didn’t go anywhere.
Anna Palmer can be contacted at [email protected].

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