There were not a tremendous amount of headlines about lobbying or lobbyists this week, but the stories that hit the press were big ones.
First, Howard Marlowe, the new president of the American League of Lobbyists, released his take on Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. And suffice it to say he was not impressed with the president’s remarks. In fact, Marlowe reported that the league “deplore[s] the inflammatory rhetoric about lobbyists,” and called the president out on several instances in which he himself has consorted with lobbyists. He also reiterated the stance that earmarks are a Constitutional right and an important part of the democratic legislative process.
Also this week, the trial of Fraser Verrusio, a former House aide who is the final conspirator charged in connection with the long-running Jack Abramoff probe, began. Opening statements took place Wednesday, and neither side mentioned the disgraced former lobbyist. Verrusio is being charged with public corruption for accepting what prosecutors are calling the “illegal gratuity” that was his ticket to the 2003 World Series. His defense lawyer, Joshua Berman, called this “a case about nothing,” because the New York trip was “a legitimate, run-of-the-mill, third party trip.”
Over the weekend, the 2010 lobbying numbers were released: last year, with the combination of stalled Congressional action in anticipation of mid-term elections and the still-slow economy, lobby shops saw a decline in the bottom line. Large firms saw booming revenue, thanks to acquisition of flailing boutique operations, but as a whole, most lobbying offices saw stagnant or declining numbers in 2010. The current Congressional climate — including uncertainty about the budget and appropriations process, and a heavy concentration of power within the regulatory agencies — have some concerned that this year may not be much better. Patton Boggs, which acquired Breaux Lott Leadership Group in July, and Akin Gump, which reported a $3 increase over 2009, remain the top earners, according to recently filed LD-203 reports.