Rob Collins to White House

The White House is bringing in veteran inside-outside player Rob Collins as a Strategic Advisor to help with the final weeks of the Supreme Court confirmation battle for Judge Gorsuch, who this week will complete visits with 70 senators. An interesting model: Colllins, 42, will be a volunteer, working on hearing prep, etc., with the confirmation team in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

  • Who he is: Collins, a Republican lobbyist who's taking a leave from his firm, S-3 Group, is a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and has personal, cellphone relationships with GOP senators.
  • The outlook: The White House is unworried about confirmation, with a Senate vote expected before the Easter recess. A top official tells us: "The Democrats are in a tough spot on this" — no tarnishing info has emerged. Trump knows this win alone locks social conservatives in for his full term, even when he disappoints elsewhere. 

Getting things done in a Trump or Clinton D.C.

By Noelle Clemente Vice President @ BryantRow // S-3 Public Affairs

TIME: “Faith in public institutions has plummeted, and Clinton and Trump are among the least trusted presidential nominees in history.”
CNN: “The 2016 election is setting new lows for presidential transparency in the modern era.”
VOX: “This lack of affirmative consensus means the parties can only unify in the negative, in opposition to the other party. No wonder neither candidate has enthusiastic support.”

2016 has been discouragingly short on a lot of things: trust, transparency, enthusiasm. Once Americans get over the disappointment of our presidential choices and we actually cast ballots, it will already be time to start making a mark on the policy agenda.

November 9, 2016, is where our focus is.

Voters are choosing between the two least popular, oldest, and two of the least transparent candidates in American history. Aside from how troubling this is for our political parties, these two candidates bring change to the aspects of Washington, DC, that actually work today. Neither Clinton nor Trump has demonstrated that if they were to win the presidency they would respect the existing system.

For those of us in Washington who work tirelessly to respect the institutions and get things done that help the American people, this is what is most concerning about 2016. Strategic public affairs in Washington will now be more important than ever. The rules of politics have changed, but the need for convincing messaging and engaged and informed supporters has only intensified.

In other words: Even after the campaign is over, the working rules and manners of politics and government will remain a thing of the past but the emphasis on smart, clear, consistent and compelling messaging will heighten.

Scenario One: The Clintons are back at 1600 Penn

The Clintons to a certain degree are a known quantity. They know “the system” and many folks in DC were around when Bill occupied the White House. That said, quite a bit has changed since the 90s, including the cloud of sketchy coincidences surrounding Bill and Hillary themselves.

For example, Bloomberg recently reported, “Hillary Clinton may have to rely on executive actions to an unprecedented degree to secure major policy accomplishments if she’s elected president, and the Democratic Party’s left wing intends to hold her feet to the fire to make sure she does just that.” On top of that, Trump does not have any real working understanding of how government operates (you can argue this is a positive quality, but that’s a different topic for another day).

Public affairs professionals will have to simultaneously maintain an exceptional Capitol Hill strategy while also being sure the administration does not take advantage of its working knowledge of every skeleton and cobweb to use executive actions and force its agenda on the American people.

Scenario Two: The Trumps Paint the White House, Gold

Donald Trump is a total wild card. Nobody thought he would actually run. Nobody thought he would actually secure the nomination. But here we are. Trump just opened up shop on Pennsylvania Avenue and could move down the street in just a few months. What does this mean for Congress? Trump seems to have never been told no. That does not bode well for Congress. He surrounds himself with people who tell him yes and stand ready to make the boss’ requests realities. Being president requires much more finesse and discretion than Trump has ever shown.

Making things happen in Washington with a Trump (Gold) House will require incredibly creative and nimble team, able to navigate the constantly changing environment. Trump listens to his family and to Twitter. Aside from getting in with Ivanka or Donald Jr., targeted online campaigns will be essential. Messages will need to be straightforward and spoken not just by those in Washington, but by Americans who will actually be helped by policies.


No matter what happens in November, a few things are clear:

  1. The usual rules are out the window;
  2. Establishment parties need to carefully evaluate the state of their parties and what their members really stand for;
  3. Everyone in Washington may be intensely focused on November 8, 2016, but the real questions and work will begin the following day.

Get ready. We are.

Lull in Congressional Schedule Not Felt on K Street


Lobbyists keep busy preparing clients for next president, lame duck session

With official Washington riven by distrust and partisan strife, and with Congress set to spend most of its summer campaigning, this year was shaping up to be a particularly slow one for lobbyists.

But the anti-establishment fervor coming from the political right and left combined with anxiety over the post-election landscape are keeping the denizens of K Street very occupied. And special interests are watching a handful of issues that haven't quite been squeezed off the agenda by time constraints.

Joshua Lamel, a vice president with BGR Government Affairs, said April was his busiest month in two years. His clients are monitoring Puerto Rico's debt crisis, a possible overhaul of sentencing laws, an electronic privacy bill and green energy tax incentives.

More broadly, business interests are trying to comprehend a political environment where GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders have turned their ire on corporate priorities.

“That’s creating a lot more work than past campaign seasons because clients are trying to make sense of the unusual primary season,” Lamel said. “It’s unprecedented territory.”

Besides hand-holding, K Street denizens say they have found plenty of work offering guidance on congressional Republicans' goal of completing work on all individual appropriations bills, though that may yet unravel. Lobbyists stand ready to pick up that work, or anything left on the agenda, in a lame-duck session.

The final months of the Obama administration also offer business opportunities as clients battle 11th-hour labor, environmental, financial and health care regulations.

John Scofield, a partner at S-3 Public Affairs said, “There’s a final push with this administration to put a period at the end of the regulatory agenda, and I have a lot of clients who are opposed to that.”

Scofield's registered clients include McGraw Hill Financial, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, Google, JP Morgan Chase and the Alzheimer’s Association, among others.

“For me, and for our firm, this is our busy season,” he said last week after enduring part of a markup of the House defense policy bill until 2:30 in the morning.

Scofield’s firm and others are also hosting events at both major party conventions in July.

“I’m thinking about going to the Republican convention because I’ve never seen a train wreck before,” cracked former Sen. John Breaux who co-chairs the public policy practice at Squire Patton Boggs. “It’ll be from a safe distance, but I want to stay close enough so I can hear it.”

The Louisiana Democrat said he expects much of his immediate business before Congress to peter out, but international clients and others increasingly need advice to help sort out 2017. He’s on the hunt for new clients, he said.

“They want to know if we have a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president what issues will be important,” Breaux said. “If Trump’s president — I don’t think that’s going to happen — ... they want to line up the agenda.”

Foreign and domestic clients are puzzling over Trump's rise and have specific concerns, such as whether he would try to change free trade agreements.

“Trade seems to be one of Trump’s top issues and could be something he leads with should he become elected,” said Chris Lamond of Thorn Run Partners, which saw revenue increase by 15 percent in the first quarter of this year and has hired a new lobbyist. “We’re trying to think through how that might impact agreements that our clients care about.”

Lamond, a Republican, and his Democratic business partner Andy Rosenberg said health care and financial services regulatory work remain robust. “There’s a real push to get guidance and rules out while they can,” said Rosenberg, whose clients include pharmaceutical giant Novartis. “Then there’s a push on our part to anticipate those and to support or thwart those efforts.”

K Street headhunter Ivan Adler of the McCormick Group said some companies, especially in the health sector, are looking to add lobbyists. The Senate is working on a package to increase funding for biomedical research, and Congress is also searching for ways to address opioid abuse and respond to the Zika virus outbreak.

Corporate players, he added, have also begun assessing their lineup of lobbyists in preparation for any election outcome.

“For all of us on this side of town, we’ve been looking at the year and wondering at what point do things start to trail off,” said Joel Roberson, who heads the drone practice at Holland & Knight and has clients such as the National Press Photographers Association that are tracking the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation. “So far this year, it’s been as busy as ever, but one would expect at some point to transition to how do we start planning for the next Congress.”

It's enough to make veterans of the influence business rethink any plans for time off.

“I remember Christmas 2008, I was on vacation with my family and was up until all hours of the night working,” said BGR's Lamel, recalling how he helped draft recommendations about cloud technology for the incoming Obama administration.

A good lobbyist, he added, is already thinking about how to frame clients’ issues for the next president, whomever that may be.

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