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To say 2006 was a tough year for lobbyists would be an understatement at best. First out of the gate was corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s guilty plea in January. Congressional lawmakers spent the better half of the winter and spring condemning the profession and vowing to pass significant reforms. Lobbyists asked clients to wait on the sidelines. Although a reform bill never came, the industry was hit with another bomb in June when the appropriations firm Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, which had close ties to former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), announced it was breaking up after a federal grand jury began issuing subpoenas to the firm’s clients, seeking information about its dealings with Lewis. Appropriations (and lobbyists, again) became four-letter words. And then there were the midterm elections that kept plenty of once-powerful incumbent lawmakers out of Washington and back home in their districts, fighting to maintain their Republican majorities. A futile effort, in the end, as the Democrats regained control of the U.S. House and Senate. Legislatively, the year wasn’t marked by any marquee legislation but by the unglamorous, shoe-leather work that remains a huge part of the lobby industry. “There just weren’t any big issues other than the routine stuff,” says Charles Black, chairman of BKSH & Associates, which made the Influence 50 list for the first time this year with $7.6 million in lobby revenues. “You have to watch things and work things [for your clients] because you don’t know what’s going to happen. In terms of new clients being added, there was less of that.” Dutko Worldwide managed, again, to remain the top all-lobby shop on the Influence 50 list. The firm reported an uptick in its revenue numbers from $33.3 million to $33.4 million, even though the firm’s chief executive, Mark Irion, flat-out told clients that “nothing was going to get done” in 2006. “The focus was on Iraq and only on Iraq,” says Irion. “I don’t think the administration was pushing much of an agenda. It was a flat to negative year. Many clients waited on the sidelines to see what would happen.” Asking clients to wait on the sidelines may have been tough medicine, but Irion says the firm managed to stay afloat by significant growth in its government marketing and global advisory businesses, helping existing clients seek opportunities abroad in emerging markets such as Latin America and Southeastern Asia. And last year, Dutko began expanding its firm, bringing on several new lobbyists, including Bill Cunningham, a one-time chief of staff to former Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Christina Culver, who was recently an official in the Department of Education. In second place, in the final year of Republican congressional dominance, was Barbour Griffith & Rogers. The all-Republican shop landed in the No. 2 slot, reporting $28.8 million in 2006, up from $21.9 million in 2005, when they were listed at No. 4. The firm went from $19 million in lobbying fees in 2005 to more than $22 million. In addition to BKSH & Associates, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti was another lobby shop making the list for the first time, with an increase of $3 million in lobbying fees from 2005 to 2006. Alex Vogel, one of the founding partners of the firm, says his shop has never had an official growth target. The business, he says, centers around several variables. “You know, the outside world focuses on the public part of lobbying; a bill is on the floor and you are trying to shape people’s votes in real time,” says Vogel. “Ninety-nine percent of the business takes place off the floor, unconnected to individual votes.” The firm also brought on new talent, including Elise Finley Pickering, former chief of staff to Arizona Republican Rep. John Shadegg; David Thomas, chief of staff to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.); and Stacey Rampy, who served as a senior lobbyist with Merck & Co. Other firms were slightly down, including the Podesta Group (formerly known as PodestaMattoon), whose revenues fell slightly from $13.3 million in 2005 to $13.2 million last year. Michelle Tessier, who leads the group’s public relations practice, says the firm has held steady, maintaining many of the same clients it has had for years, including Amgen, while adding several high-profile clients, such as Google Inc. And the firm began adding more Democrats to its roster last year, including Andrew Kauders, who was the executive director of the House Democratic Caucus.
Joe Crea can be contacted at [email protected].

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