McCarthy has slim alumni network – but many friends – on K Street

By Catherine Ho September 30 at 3:32 PM

 

Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have a K Street network that can match the one built by outgoing Speaker John Boehner during his 13 terms in Congress.

But the California Republican and current House majority leader, who was first elected in 2006, is no stranger to the lobbying world and his expected ascension to speaker promises to be a boon to former McCarthy aides and other close allies working in the  influence industry.

A number of former top McCarthy staffers have found new professional homes lobbying on behalf of the technology, insurance and financial services industries. McCarthy also has close relationships with lobbyists with ties to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), with whom he had a close working relationship. His chief of staff, Tim Berry, once lobbied for Time Warner after working for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

McCarthy is known among veteran lobbyists as more focused on fostering relationships with other members than with K Street, particularly compared with past leaders.

Even so, there is no shortage of McCarthy supporters on K Street who, despite never having worked for the congressman, maintain ties with his office and help raise money for him and his allies. And despite the anti-establishment mood among voters and many House members, lobbyists don’t expect to get the cold shoulder from McCarthy if, as expected, his colleagues elect him to replace Boehner.

“Kevin’s a smart guy, he listens and asks good questions and gives you a fair hearing,” said Marty Depoy, a lobbyist for financial services firms at the lobby shop Bockorny Group. Depoy and his wife Sandra “Sam” Depoy, a lobbyist for the American Resort Development Association, were Cantor supporters and have been close with McCarthy since Cantor appointed him deputy.

“After a meeting, you know where you stand,” Depoy said. “From K Street’s perspective, those are all skills he possesses which are welcome.”

The stock of former McCarthy aides on K Street is now rising as corporate clients are eager for any insight into how McCarthy thinks, interacts with colleagues and makes decisions. This roster includes:

• Brian Worth, McCarthy’s former director of coalitions, who now leads Uber’s federal public policy team;

• Shelby Hagenauer, former legislative director, who lobbies for the financial services and healthcare sectors at the law firm Nossaman;

• Erica Elliott, McCarthy’s former communications director, who helped open the D.C. office of funds management firm Franklin Square Capital Partners;

• Steve Pinkos, former policy director and general counsel, who is at lobby shop American Continental Group;

• Neil Bradley, former deputy chief of staff, who runs the Conservative Reform Network; and

• Wes McClelland, former senior policy adviser, who is vice president of federal affairs at the American Insurance Association.

Among McCarthy’s other K Street supporters are former aides to Cantor, whose staff worked closely with McCarthy’s office. Others are longtime friends and former colleagues from McCarthy’s days chairing the Young Republican National Federation in the late 1990s. Many are excited at the prospect of a shakeup in leadership they see as a generational shift.

“Some people say it’s going to be the same old, but [McCarthy] comes in from a totally different generation, a totally different era of politics, which will make him a little different than [someone who’s] been in Congress for a long time,” said Rob Collins, former deputy chief of staff to Cantor who now works as a lobbyist at the Republican firm S-3 Group. “In some ways, not being tied to a long tenure is going to be liberating for him, it allows him to do things as he sees fit, he wont be tied to preconceived notions of the past.”

Elliott, McCarthy’s communications director until early 2014, says that because McCarthy is more in touch with the younger conservative wing he helped bring into the House, he is well-positioned to foster an environment in the House where legislation can start moving again.

“Kevin is of that same mindset, the same generation,” Elliott said. “He recruited a lot of these people to run for Congress…he can help those members channel that energy in a more constructive way to get things done.”

McCarthy’s fast rise during a relatively short career in national politics means his connections to trusted advisers in the lobbying world is not as deep as that of Boehner, who built a broader network over decades in Washington. A smaller inner circle downtown could mean McCarthy will get a more limited picture of chatter around town and feel for what other members are doing and thinking, some former aides noted.

“Lobbyists pushing their issues are talking to all the members of your conference, so you have to have a feel for that,” one former staffer said. “It’s a good way to collect intelligence… if you have 20 people you trust, it’s better than having 10 people you trust. You have a better chance of getting better information and viewpoints.”

But McCarthy generally known as a gifted politician who makes friends easily — traits that play well on K Street.

“He’s very fond of saying, ‘You can’t have too many friends,'” said Dan Crowley, a longtime friend and former general counsel for the Young Republican National Federation, which McCarthy chaired from 1999 to 2001. He also served as general counsel for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and is now a lobbyist at the law firm K&L Gates.

“He’s a very genuine, friendly, good-natured guy,” Crowley said. “For that reason he’s a team builder, a consensus builder, has a positive vision, and tries to build people up and move toward an optimistic set of objectives, as opposed to the unfortunate negativity we see so much of these days.”