The lobbying industry kept a firm hand on the tiller last year as it navigated through health care and financial reform, reporting a steady rise in revenue in 2010.
The National Law Journal‘s annual survey of the lobbying industry, the Influence 50, showed that the 50 highest-grossing lobbying practices brought in a collective $1.1 billion in 2010, an increase of 4.6% from the year before.
President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care reform legislation and the financial reform bill authored by then-Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) were among the biggest items on the agendas of many Washington lobbying shops. Both were signed into law by Obama last year.
Members of the top brass at several Influence 50 firms lobbied on at least one of the bills, according to congressional records.
Patton Boggs, which acquired Breaux Lott Leadership Group in July 2010, was one of those firms. Former sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), as well as Patton partner Thomas Boggs Jr., lobbied on at least one of the measures. Patton also drew on the resources of other senior lobbyists, including partner John Jonas, who founded the firm’s health care practice.
“They were very well-equipped to understand the intricate nuances of the massive legislative proposals,” said Nicholas Allard, chairman of Patton’s lobbying, political and election law practice.
Former Rep. L.F. Payne (D-Va.), president of McGuireWoods Consulting, said his firm’s work last year on health care and financial reform helped propel its revenue jump of 34.5% — the biggest income increase among firms that weren’t new to the Influence 50 list. The rise moved the firm seven positions up the list to No. 17.
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and American Fidelity Assurance Co. were among almost a dozen companies that paid the firm more than $100,000 for advocacy work reported under the Lobbying Disclosure Act for 2010, according to congressional records.
“It was obviously a great year for us,” Payne said.
The Influence 50 takes a comprehensive measurement of all fees related to lobbying. It includes revenues reported to Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and to the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and it also asks firms to provide information about state and local lobbying done from Washington-area offices. Finally, it asks firms to report other related work, such as representation of clients before federal agencies or grass-roots organizing.
The industry suffered a slight growth slowdown in 2010, compared with the 5.5% increase in industry revenues between 2008-2009.
This was the third year in a row that showed a single-digit percent increase. Lobbying revenue has risen no more than 5.5% since the 11% jump in the 2008 Influence 50 propelled the top 50 firms past a collective $1 billion.
Overall, gross revenues in 2010 rose at 34 firms and decreased at a dozen — a one-shop improvement from 2009. But half of the firms that reported lower income posted double-digit decreases.
Lobbyists said the slowed, single-digit revenue increase likely was brought on by an election year and the struggling economy.
H. Stewart Van Scoyoc, president and CEO of Van Scoyoc Associates, said the 4.6% increase is “not a bad thing” given the economic climate. His firm saw a 3.9% increase in lobbying, putting it at No. 10 on the list.
“I think a lot of places in the economy would be happy with a [4.6%] increase,” Van Scoyoc said.
At 49.5%, Arnold & Porter had the largest percent decrease in this year’s list.
The firm had small increases in all revenue categories, except the “other” category, in which the firm reported a 71% decrease in revenue. The firm is at No. 38 on the list, dropping 21 spots from last year. Former Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), the head of Arnold’s legislative and public policy group, attributed the drop to the way the firm gathered data for the Influence 50 list this year. For the third year, law firms brought in about two-thirds of the lobbying income. Overall, their revenue increased 6.2%, 4.8% higher than the increase among nonlaw firms.
Law firms hold eight of the top 10 spots on the list, continuing a trend that started in 2006. Podesta Group and Van Scoyoc Associates are the only nonlaw firms to crack the top 10 this year.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld topped the list for the fifth year in a row, taking in $98.3 million.
Smith Davis, who leads Akin’s legislative financial institutions policy practice, said his firm’s ranking shows that he and his colleagues handle client matters “in a meaningful and positive way.” Almost a dozen Akin clients paid the firm at least $500,000 for advocacy work reported under the Lobbying Disclosure Act for 2010, according to congressional records.
The biggest paychecks to Akin Gump for lobbying disclosed in 2010 under the Lobbying Disclosure Act came from Dow Chemical Co. and Moody’s Corp., which each paid the firm more than $1.5 million for its advocacy work.
There also were some firms that are new to the Influence 50 or have made returns.
McDermott Will & Emery returned to the list at No. 16 after a six-year absence. Gephardt Group, led by former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), made its debut on the list at No. 43. Bockorny Group squeaked in at No. 50 after one year off the list.
But missing from the list this year are the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, Clark & Weinstock and Greenberg Traurig. Breaux came in at No. 32 last year, its last full year of independence, while Clark & Weinstock was at No. 47 and Greenberg was at No. 45. This is the first time Greenberg has failed to make the Influence 50.
Greenberg’s revenue dropped 43.8% between 2008 and 2010. According to data obtained for this year’s Influence 50, Greenberg only brought in $5.4 million, a $2.7 million drop from the $8.1 million the firm’s lobbying practice earned in 2009.
The firm has posted gross revenue drops in three of the six Influence 50 lists published before this year. In 2004, the year Jack Abramoff was pushed out of the firm, Greenberg’s gross income declined 33%.
“The numbers have changed but our core client base remains intact,” said a firm representative in a statement. “The figures only reflect D.C.-based efforts and only lobbying spend. Our Governmental Affairs practice is strong and goes far beyond federal lobbying.”
Andrew Ramonas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.