The Rise And Fall Of Top Lobbying Firms in the 2000s

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They were the pioneers of a high profile business. Politicians held strategy sessions with them, while the public saw them as the source of all evil in politics. In the last decade lobbying in Washington boomed like no other business. Expenses skyrocketed from $1.5 billion to approximately $3.5 billion by the end of the decade, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Over the course of the past decade forty-three lobbying firms found themselves ranked in the top twenty firms in terms of lobbying revenue. In this expansion some firms maintained their status, some fell from their perch, others rose to prominence, while a few succumbed to some of the most memorable lobbying scandals in recent memory.

In the interactive map below you can track the growth and decline of the top lobbying firms of the last decade (the arrow button at the bottom allows toggling between zoom, select, and pan):

Winners

Patton Boggs has perennially found itself in the upper echelons of Washington lobbying. Since 2003 Patton Boggs led all firms in revenue, topping off at $42.3 million in 2007.

The Podesta Group has seen its revenues grow rapidly since Barack Obama was elected to the White House. Revenues at the Podesta Group have nearly tripled since 2007. It’s good to be the most well-connected Democratic lobbyist when the Democrats control all levels of government as they did from 2009-2010.

Brownstein Hyatt broke into the top five in lobbying revenues in 2009 and remained there in 2010. The firm jumped from out of the top twenty in 2005 and built a strong business over those years. A big piece of the firm’s lobbying growth has been a multimillion dollar contract with the private equity investment firm Apollo Management.

Losers

PMA Group‘s close ties to top defense appropriator John Murtha made themgo-to lobbying firm for companies seeking defense earmarks. The firm was in the top twenty every year until it was felled by a major corruption scandal. Numerous congressmen were implicated in a campaign contribution-for-earmark scheme. The firm’s head Paul Magliocchetti wound up pleading guilty to three charges of falsifying campaign contributions. The firm closed in 2009 after Magliocchetti’s indictment.

Greenberg Traurig rode the lobbying roller coaster like no other lobbying firm in the 2000s. The firm jumped into the top twenty in 2001 after hiring the most famous lobbyist at the time, Jack Abramoff. Abramoff brought a personal lobbying revenue of approximately $6 million with him from Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. Greenberg Traurig’s revenue shot up quickly to more than $25 million in 2003. The next year Abramoff came under investigation by the Department of Justice. An internal review led Greenberg Traurig to fire Abramoff. The firm’s lobbying revenue dropped rapidly after Abramoff’s departure and subsequent guilty plea and imprisonment.

Cassidy & Associates had been at the top of the Washington lobbying game for a long time. While the firm has not fallen out of the top twenty, or even top ten, in lobbying revenue, it has lost its perch at the top of the profession. As Congress enters a period of budget cuts and anti-earmark fervor Cassidy, the firm that literally invented earmarks, may have more to worry about in the current decade.

(Data made available by the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Download the .csv of the data used in the map.

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