For the first time since 2007, Washington has a new leader in lobbying revenue. With $106.3 million in government-affairs income during 2012, Patton Boggs has knocked Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld from the top spot in The National Law Journal’ s annual survey of the lobbying industry, the Influence 50.
Akin, which came in second with $100.1 million, had sat atop the heap since 2007, when it edged out defending lobbying revenue leader Patton. Between 2008 and 2012, Patton stayed at No. 2.
“They’ve had a couple good years, for which we congratulate them,” said Akin partner Steven Ross, a senior member of the firm’s public law and policy practice.
Akin experienced a 3.4 percent decline compared with the $103.6 million it pulled in during 2011. Capitol Hill and federal agency lobbying revenue reported to Congress fell to $31.3 million, a 17.6 percent decrease from 2011 that offset gains in other lobbying work.
Patton and Akin together accounted for about 17 percent of the $1.21 billion in government-affairs revenue the top 50 lobbying shops racked up in 2012. Influence 50 members overall registered a slight increase — less than 1 percent — compared with the lobbying income total in last year’s survey.
The Influence 50 takes a comprehensive measure of all fees related to lobbying. It includes revenues reported to Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The survey also asks firms to provide information about state and local lobbying by Washington-area offices. Finally, it asks firms to report related work including representation of clients before federal agencies or grassroots organizing.
Of the 47 firms included on the Influence 50 last year, 21 this year posted higher revenues, while 22 reported less income. The remaining four shops saw no change.
Akin in 2012 ended lobbying relationships with clients including Sunoco Inc. and the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, accounting for some of the missing $6.7 million in the firm’s Lobbying Disclosure Act income, according to congressional records. Sunoco had paid Akin $120,000 in 2011 to lobby for a tax credit, among other matters. The alliance, which tries to bring U.S. military facilities to Virginia’s Hampton Roads area and keep them there, gave the firm $520,000 in 2011 to advocate regarding U.S. Defense Department appropriations.
The drop coincided with a slowdown in lobbying work that Ross said tends to happen during presidential election years. “I don’t know if there’s all that much mystery to it,” he said.
Patton, which posted a 4.4 percent increase in lobbying income compared with 2011, also reported a drop in Lobbying Disclosure Act revenue. The firm saw millions of dollars in extra income from lobbying for foreign governments and entities — including Ecuador, the Republic of Cameroon, South Korea and the central bank of Lebanon — and other efforts to influence public officials or to shape laws or regulations.
HEALTH CARE LOBBYING
Work on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act were among the matters that kept Patton busy, according to partner Kevin O’Neill, deputy chairman of the public-policy department. Patton last year lobbied on Dodd-Frank for clients including the Depository & Trust Clearing Corp. and Wholesale Markets Brokers’ Association Americas, congressional records show. In 2012, the firm received $940,000 from the former and $990,000 from the latter to lobby on matters that included Dodd-Frank.
As for the ACA, Patton advocated for clients including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. The firm last year took in $320,000 from both Bristol-Myers Squibb and Northrop.
“We didn’t sit on our laurels,” O’Neill said.
But the uptick in government-affairs income wasn’t enough to prevent a 6.3 percent drop in the firm’s gross revenue in 2012. Last year, Patton grossed $318 million, prompting layoffs for 30 lawyers and 35 staff. O’Neill declined to discuss how lobbying income rose amid an overall decline. In March, managing partner Edward Newberry said the firm was undergoing a “right-sizing exercise.”
“We took the action we felt we needed to protect the profitability of the firm and the financial strength of the firm in light of what we anticipate revenue will be this year,” Newberry said.
Also reporting declining government-affairs revenue were Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Arent Fox, DLA Piper and Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. Pure lobbying shops, not connected to law firms, also suffered, contributing less than one-third of the lobbying revenue among the Influence 50 shops.
Ogilvy Government Relations, which collected $13.6 million in government-affairs revenue, showed the greatest percentage decrease, with a 34.6 percent drop. The nonlaw firm, which took part in the Influence 50 last year, this year declined to report revenue totals it isn’t required to provide to the government. For firms that don’t participate in our survey, the NLJ calculates revenue using publicly available Lobbying Disclosure Act and Foreign Agents Registration Act numbers only.
Judging by those figures alone for 2011 and 2012 revenue, Ogilvy’s revenue fell by 31.7 percent, still the biggest percentage decrease among the Influence 50. The firm in 2012 lost about a half-dozen lobbyists and several clients, including Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Chevron Corp. Asked about the decline, Rawson Hart, Ogilvy’s chief administrative officer, said, “We’re focused on the future.”
On the other side of the pendulum, Alston & Bird, with $21.5 million in lobbying revenue, posted the largest percentage increase at 41.4 percent, moving into the top 20. Alston partner Robert Jones, who leads the legislative and public policy group, credited an increase in Dodd-Frank and other regulatory work in 2012. “It’s hard to replicate,” Jones said of Alston’s revenue bump.
Other changes include the departures of Greenberg Traurig, Livingston Group and QGA Public Affairs from the Influence 50. New to the list are Faegre Baker Daniels, Heather Podesta + Partners and The Glover Park Group. Faegre, which lobbies as FaegreBD Consulting, made its debut at No. 33, the highest position on the Influence 50 for a new entrant. Last year, Baker Daniels and B&D Consulting merged with Faegre & Benson to create FaegreBD Consulting.
“2012 was an important year for our firm,” said David Zook, FaegreBD Consulting’s chairman.
Andrew Ramonas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.