It’s hard to imagine a more bonkers, unpredictable and politically toxic backdrop for K Street operators than the current one. But just wait until 2020 actually arrives.
The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. The approaching elections, along with an expected impeachment trial early on, will turn Capitol Hill into an even bigger political mess.
Still, lobbyists say they have no plans to zip up their campaign checkbooks, hide under their desks or decamp from the capital.
Instead, they’re brewing alternative strategies, workarounds that include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia and other institutions that can lend policy gravitas to shape major discussions over health care, immigration, trade, taxes and other matters that will feature prominently on the campaign trail and beyond.
Lobbyists and lobbying firms have ramped up outreach to think tanks over the years, making thousands of contacts at Washington, DC-area think tanks large and small each year. In turn, think tanks often lobby the executive and legislative branches.
Foreign governments have also been hiring lobbying firms for help with outreach to think tanks.