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Lobbyists Looking Ahead to 2016

21 January 2015 in Trading Ideas

Here it is, barely 2015, and one industry – lobbying — is already skipping ahead another 12 months.

Not that the jockeying just started – as soon as the midterm elections ended last November, the “Will They Or Won’t They Run?” presidential election guessing game was underway.

For the Democrats, the putative front-runner is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has yet to declare a candidacy but whose presence has had the effect of limiting much of talk of any competition to unlikely adversaries such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (Joe Biden? We just don’t know yet).

The Republicans, who are looking to recapture the Oval Office after eight years, appear to have a more wide-open race, one that has had the effect of stalling the bets placed by top lobbyists.

A USAToday.com article last week reported that possible (and former) presidential contender Mitt Romney can’t necessarily count on his past prolific K Street fundraisers to swiftly back what would be his third attempt for the presidency — as some of the biggest bundlers who supported his 2012 campaign either remain on the sidelines or already have committed to help advance the cause of rival Jeb Bush.1

Several top GOP lobbying fundraisers in the lobbying told the publication that it’s too soon to commit to anyone — underscoring the difficulty Romney may face in seeking to quickly reactivate the network of donors and other supporters who backed his 2012 candidacy.

Some of his previous backers on Capitol Hill have reacted coolly to his trial balloon. USAToday.com said.

The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page this week slammed a potential third bid, saying Romney “would have to explain why he’d be a better candidate now.”

On the other hand, a top Romney campaign aide noted that he is also is the “only person in the potential field who’s raised $1 billion for a presidential campaign, adding that “no other Republican in history has come close to what he’s already done. If he runs again, it will be with the assurance he can meet or exceed that goal.”

USAToday.com explained that Romney never publicly released a list of his top campaign fundraisers in 2012, but federal law required his campaign to disclose how much federal lobbyists collected on his behalf. In all, nearly 70 lobbyists reported bundling a total of $17.3 million for Romney’s 2012 White House bid, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ tally, the article said.

Of course, that’s just one small portion of lobbyist fundraising – and just one election, albeit the biggest, that will take place in 2016.

The S&P 500 is down 2.6% for the past month while the Kings of K Street motif which contains stocks of many companies that generate business from lobbying returned 0.0% in that time.

In the past 12 months, the motif has risen 28.6%; the S&P 500 is up 12.0%.

Lobbying firms – and their investors – may be in the sweet spot for now. A new congressional leadership has just taken over, offering the chance to peddle influence in the short term while the presidential morass sorts itself out over the next year.

1Fredreka Schouten, “Some K Street donors slow to commit to another Romney bid,” usatoday.com, Jan. 15, 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2015/01/15/k-street-donors-mitt-romney-campaign/21801211/.