Which Came First, the Lobbyist or the Company?


If you want to get money from the recovery funds allotted in the stimulus bill and you are a brand new company, whom should your first hires be? Why, lobbyists, of course!

At first glance, SmartSpark Energy Systems looks like a lot of technology startups. It raised $6 million in venture capital, employs 24 people and doesn’t make any money.

What sets the company apart: It has two teams of lobbyists.

The first jobs of the federal clean-energy stimulus plan are here — and they’re for lobbyists. SmartSpark is part of a stampede of technology companies hiring insiders in Washington and state capitals to gain influence. They’re vying for a piece of last month’s $787 billion stimulus package.

“There is so much at stake here that there’s an enormous need for entrepreneurs to get close with policy makers,” said Jason Matlof, a partner at Battery Ventures in Menlo Park, California. “There are billions just for R&D. It’s a lot of money.”

This kind of activity is why the new rules for lobbying on recovery funds are so important. When the lobbyists come before the company, there is some type of problem.