Newspaper article Roll Call

K Street Busy Preparing for Whirlwind 2013

Newspaper article Roll Call

K Street Busy Preparing for Whirlwind 2013

Article excerpt

Capitol Hill might be grinding to a partisan, election-year standstill, but there is still plenty to do on K Street.

The influence sector is planning an aggressive agenda, casting policies such as tax reform with plenty of political spin. Business lobbyists say they will capitalize on the acrimony between the House GOP and the White House in an attempt to use Congress to rein in federal regulators.

They also will quietly work the halls of the Capitol to set the stage for what K Street expects to be a whirlwind 2013.

"People just can't put up the 'Gone Fishing' sign for the year and pick up next January where they left off," said Republican Ken Kies, a longtime tax lobbyist who is managing director of the Federal Policy Group. Like most of his downtown colleagues, Kies doesn't expect the second session of the 112th to produce much in the way of legislation or bipartisan agreement.

"We're in the most partisan, nasty environment -- Republican on Democrat, Congress on White House -- we've seen in 50 years," he said. "It's just about as ugly as you can imagine."

Still, Kies and other K Streeters say that especially when it comes to taxes and deficits, big deals aren't outside the realm of possibility if, say, the European Union were to collapse into a deep recession.

Even absent big legislation, lobbyists will make sure Members of Congress get an earful of their clients' priorities.

"You're still going to have a tremendous amount of behind-the- scenes positioning," said Democrat Andy Rosenberg, who heads the firm Thorn Run Partners. "We've been adding clients, not losing clients. There's a real sense that there's a lot at stake this year."

For example, lobbying interests will continue spending big on fights over online sales tax and online piracy bills.

And Jade West, a top in-house lobbyist for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, said her organization is keeping a close watch on tax policy, including tax reform and tax extenders. At the end of December, Congress passed a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday, unemployment benefits and the Medicare "doc fix," setting the stage for a fresh fight early this year.

"The term 'Groundhog Day' just keeps rolling through my mind," West said. "We are starting a new year with the first order of business being the unfinished business from the last session."

The same debates, though, this year will "be colored by the fact that it's an election year" and lawmakers may not be "looking at what's good for the country but what's good for somebody's campaign brochures and ads," she said.

The campaign-tinged year can hinder individual industries' priorities. National Association of Federal Credit Unions' President and CEO Fred Becker said his group is looking for regulatory relief in the form of the Communities First Act, which focuses on smaller financial institutions. …

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