Lobbying firm ACG Advocacy saw its business skyrocket after one of its partners, David Urban, helped Trump win Pennsylvania in the 2016 election. Urban a few months before Trump lost to become executive vice president of ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok.
ACG generated $ 2.5 million in lobbying revenue in the second quarter of this year, up from $ 4.4 million in the second quarter of 2020, according to a POLITICO analysis of its disclosure documents, a decrease of 43%.
Shawn Smeallie, the founder of ACG, said the company knew its inflated revenues during the Trump administration were not sustainable.
“David Urban and I used to call it high sugar levels,” Smeallie said in an interview.
ACG’s revenues are still higher than they were before Trump was elected, he pointed out, and the company has hung on to many Urban customers, including Comcast, Walgreens and 7-Eleven. The company is bipartisan and boasts of “one of the best Schumers in town,” as Smeallie put it, referring to Molly Allen, a former assistant to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Nonetheless, the decline in revenues for ACG and other companies, as the new filed information reveals, reflects how much Trump’s presidency has disrupted the lobbying and consulting firms that form DC’s backbone.
K Street always experiences upheaval when power changes hands. But the shortage of lobbyists with ties to Trump when he took office in 2017 has drawn a handful of agents with ties to him to Washington. While Urban is a longtime lobbyist in Washington, others had limited experience in Washington, and their success in the capital has always been tied to that of Trump. Many of them remain now that the former president is no longer in power, but a Democrat-led DC presented some complications.
The Trump administration “was an aberration because it was so much chaos outside the gate,” as Smeallie put it. “The chaos in this industry tends to mean a lot more work because people are nervous.”
Yet some lobbyists who arrived in Washington at the start of the Trump era remain there, even though their income has taken a hit.
Jeff Miller, a Republican lobbyist close to former energy secretary Rick Perry, set up a lobbying boutique in Washington after Trump won and signed leading clients such as Dow Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America .
Miller Strategies lobbying revenues have fallen by almost half in the past year; the company made $ 1.9 million in the second quarter of 2021, up from $ 3.4 million in the second quarter of 2020. Nonetheless, it is on track to make more money this year than it does. did during the first two years of Trump’s presidency. Dow Chemical and PhRMA both remain customers.
Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist who was one of the main fundraisers for Trump’s campaigns and who opened an office in Washington after Trump’s victory, has seen a similar trend.
Ballard made his business one of the largest in Washington. But its lobbying revenues fell about 26% to $ 4.8 million in the second quarter, from $ 6.5 million in the second quarter of last year. Yet many of Ballard’s clients have decided to stick with him even though Trump is no longer in office.
“We talked to them about it and they were very honest with us,” said Keith Wilkins, city administrator for the city of Pensacola, Fla., Who is a customer of Ballard. The cabinet assured him that they were working to develop “relations with some of the main Democrats in the state of Florida,” he said.
With Trump’s departure, Ballard Partners worked to adapt to President Joe Biden’s Washington. He hired more Democratic lobbyists this year and saw his earnings increase slightly from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2021.
“We are institutionalizing our business rather than getting the one-time quick hit,” Ballard said.
Other lobbying firms that flourished during Trump’s presidency have not done so well.
Avenue Strategies, the lobbying firm founded by Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett in late 2016, closed its doors after Trump’s defeat. (Lewandowski cut ties with the company years earlier.) Bennett then started a new business, but he’s only registered to lobby for one client: America’s Power, an industry trading group. coal.
And former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s lobbying firm Christie 55 Solutions, which made more than $ 1.1 million last year lobbying the Trump administration, has stopped doing pressure for its eight clients earlier this year.
Bennett and Christie did not respond to requests for comment.
Not all Trump-linked lobbying firms suffered in Biden’s Washington.
David Tamasi, a longtime Washington lobbyist who raised funds for Trump’s campaigns in 2016 and 2020, told POLITICO just ahead of the Nov. 3 election that he expected his cabinet business lobbying drops 5-10% if Trump loses. But he said on Wednesday he was wrong: Business hasn’t gone down at all.
While its lobbying firm, Chartwell Strategy Group, reported $ 435,000 in lobbying fees in the second quarter of this year – up from $ 550,000 in the second quarter of 2020 – the company’s revenues in the first half of this year are higher than they were in the first half of 2020. The company is bipartisan, which has helped isolate it from the transition to a Democratic White House and Congress.
“Last year was our best year, and we are on track this year for an even better year,” Tamasi said in an interview.
Meanwhile, lobbying firm Michael Best Strategies, of which Trump’s former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus is president, has seen their lobbying revenues skyrocket over the past year by hiring the former Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and gave former Rep. Steve Israel (DN.Y.) a bigger role. Michael Best Strategies generated nearly $ 2 million in lobbying revenue in the second quarter of 2021, up from $ 1.1 million in the second quarter of last year.
“Michael Best is one of DC’s fastest growing and smartest stores and we couldn’t be happier with our progress,” Priebus wrote in an email to POLITICO.
Michael Best Strategies’ growing fortunes don’t necessarily come as a surprise. Many K Street businesses have seen their revenues explode as Congress authorized trillions in new spending to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, and Biden pushed for trillions more.
At the same time, it is potentially risky for companies to hire lobbyists with ties to Trump at a time when Democrats control Congress and the White House, and Congress is setting up a commission to investigate the take. assault on Capitol Hill by Trump supporters in January. The payoff, instead, could come years later if the Republicans returned to power.
“The risk is somewhat obvious,” said a lobbyist whose cabinet discussed hiring a lobbyist with ties to Trump to strengthen his lobbying of Trump’s allies in Congress. “The rewards may be in 2023.”