K Street Lobbying Shops Anticipating Democratic House

On the street where “the swamp” makes its headquarters, people who hire lobbyists are anticipating the need for better relationships with the Donkey Party. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

There are all sorts of indicators you can consult in trying to anticipate the results of upcoming elections. There are handicapping experts like those at Cook Political Report or Sabato’s Crystal Ball that go race-by-race, and big-picture analysts like those at FiveThirtyEight that project probabilities of this or that happening. There are all sorts of political-science models. And there are prediction markets where political junkies put their own money on the line.

But there’s one specific physical location you might want to look to for signs of what is likely to happen in the battle for control of Congress this year: K Street in Washington, the legendary home of lobbying firms. And as Politico reports, they are hiring up on Democrats right now:

Companies and trade groups are trying to hire congressional staffers with ties to influential House Democrats four months ahead of the midterm elections, in which Democrats are expected to pick up seats and potentially retake control of the House. Lobbyists are helping their clients meet with the Democrats who would become committee chairs if the party does win back the chamber. And trade groups are talking to members about what to expect from a Democratic takeover.

This is less a matter of placing bets on a Democratic victory than hedging bets after two years of trifecta control of Washington by the GOP. Most company or association lobbyists and private hired-gun firms got all hired up on Republicans around the time Donald Trump took office. Even though Trump rails incessantly (if not very convincingly, given the special-interest legislation he keeps supporting) about “the swamp” (which is basically headquartered on K Street) and Democrats like to bash corporations, lobbyists have to get along with whoever is in charge.

Democratic lobbyist Heather Podesta said she was having serious conversations each week with companies looking to add Democratic firepower, either now or closer to the election.

And in this as in so many other contexts, the early bird gets the very connected worm, so some influencers are making plans they might abandon if things go south for Democrats between now and November.

The K Street hiring spree is mostly aimed at people who know or have worked for key House Democrats. Does that mean GOP control of the Senate is secure? Not necessarily:

Democrats retaking the Senate would … require a smaller adjustment for K Street than a change in House control. That’s because Republicans need Democratic votes to overcome a filibuster on most legislation, so lobbyists with ties to both parties in the Senate are generally in demand.

It’s the unexpected, or long-awaited, party control swing that creates the most chaos on K Street and throughout Washington. Back in 1995, after Republicans shockingly regained control of the House after 40 years in the minority, I joked that the interstate highways leading into and out of Washington looked like that scene from Gandhi depicting the vast exchange of Hindu and Muslim populations after the partition of India, with Democrats fleeing and Republicans arriving in caravans. Since Democrats controlled the House as recently as 2010, another flip won’t require massive adjustments. But for now, these professional Congress-watchers are putting their money on a Democratic House.

The Swamp Anticipates a Democratic House