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Boehner, McCarthy-Tied Lobbyists See Chances in Divided Congress

Nov. 15, 2022, 10:30 AM

Law firm lobbying operations see a Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate cooperating on enough legislation next year to keep corporate clients investing in Washington.

Both chambers must agree on funding the government, extending the debt ceiling and approving a defense authorization bill, all of which have downstream effects on business clients, said former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), now a private sector adviser for Squire Patton Boggs.

“Finding consensus on Capitol Hill when I was speaker was difficult, and it’s even more difficult today,” Boehner said in an interview. “But there are some things that have to get done. There will be opportunities to find common ground between the parties.”

Squire Patton is among the dozens of Washington firms preparing for the House to flip to Republicans, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) the odds-on favorite to be the new speaker, even though final votes in the 2022 election haven’t yet been tallied. Ties to McCarthy, once Boehner’s deputy, are valuable for the firms.

Squire Patton knows the “right players” on both sides of the aisle—and the vehicles they’ll be relying on to get things done, Boehner said. “We have some opportunities that will be coming to us.”

Jeff Miller, CEO of the lobbying firm Miller Strategies, is a close friend and former adviser to McCarthy. Government affairs shop CGCN Group counts John Stipicevic, a former deputy chief of staff to McCarthy, and Tim Pataki, a former leadership aide for McCarthy, as registered lobbyists on its payroll.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, among the largest lobbying shops in D.C., on. Oct. 11 hired Will Dunham, McCarthy’s former deputy chief of staff.

It’s “a helpful thing” to have former McCarthy staffers in-house at lobbying firms, said Rich Gold, the leader of Holland & Knight’s public policy group.

The connections won’t reshape the lobbying business, especially considering the enhanced leverage individual members will have in a Senate and House with such thin margins. The divided Congress will also hit gridlock on several issues, leading lobbyists to keep their expectations modest.

“Is every company running out and making sure they have one of those firms on retainer?” Gold said of McCarthy-tied firms. “That’s not how the town works anymore.”

Boehner’s View

Boehner and five of his former staffers in the U.S. House now work at Squire Patton, with firm clients this year including Huawei Technologies Co., Coca-Cola Co. and food manufacturing giant Mars Inc. Squire Patton has earned $22 million from clients in the past four quarters, Lobbying Disclosure Act filings show.

The firm has been adding to its GOP roster, with former Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) joining the firm in 2019. The firm in 2018 added David Stewart, a former majority staff director for the House Ways and Means Committee.

While not a registered lobbyist, Boehner provides “strategic advice” to international clients and members of the lobbying practice while splitting his time between Ohio and Washington, according to the firm. He has been with Squire Patton since 2016, a year after leaving his speaker role of nearly five years.

Boehner said the Republican-led House will bring with it an aggressive oversight agenda that sweeps in plenty of business interests.

The Supreme Court’s June decision restricting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to curb power-plant emissions means that “virtually every new regulation” from the Biden administration is going to “eat up an awful lot of oversight time, especially in the House,” he said.

“I don’t think most businesses in America fully appreciate how far reaching those decisions were,” Boehner said of the Supreme Court moves.

Focus Shifts

Holland & Knight’s Gold said that a Democratic-led Senate and Republican-controlled House, with such thin margins, creates some chances for legislative compromises to be reached.

Activity will still drop from some of the frenetic levels of the past few years, but it’s not as if businesses now can “sit on their hands,” he said.

Republicans have also made it clear that they will be aggressive in their scrutiny of big corporations and Wall Street, said Aaron Cutler, a government affairs practice leader at Hogan Lovells and former senior adviser to ex-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

“This isn’t the Republican party of the past,” Cutler said. His team has been prepping corporate clients for what’s likely to be intensifying scrutiny on issues such as corporate social stances and environmental policies, he said.

Akin Gump, whose bipartisan roster including roughly 20 former GOP lawmakers and staffers, has held a series of meetings in recent months with corporate clients and GOP House members to prepare them for the Republican agenda, senior counsel Casey Higgins said.

The firm is holding additional meetings in the coming weeks with Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the ranking member of the financial services committee, on cryptocurrency policy, as well as one on taxes with Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the retiring ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“When the House changes over, it’s always a dramatic turnover,” Higgins said. “You have members who have in a lot of ways not had a lot of exposure to K Street because they haven’t been able to impact the legislative process.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Wise at jwise@bloombergindustry.com; David Hood at dhood23@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com