Revolving door boosts private equity lobbying


The Private Equity Growth Capital Council has a new president with Democratic credentials who has been through Washington's revolving door.

Steven Judge won the job after serving since last year as interim head of the trade group, which, among other things, lobbies against proposals to increase taxes on carried interest. Those proposals have gained steam in recent weeks because of revelations that carried interest enabled GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to keep his tax rate lower than that paid by many Americans who made considerably less.

Before coming to the council, Judge worked for 14 years as the lead lobbyist for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the major trade association for the securities industry. From 1987 to 1991 he served as deputy staff director for the House Banking Committee.

The trade group, which  represents a long list of private equity firms, including the Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. — but not Bain Capital, the investment firm Romney cofounded — reported spending $2.2 million on federal lobbying last year. That year the council hired two firms with strong tax lobbying shops to help extend its reach: Akin Gump and Capitol Tax Partners. It also hired the firm Debevoise and Plimpton to lobby the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on issues related to the Dodd-Frank financial law.

Update, 7:20 ET: National Journal reports that the Private Equity Growth Capital Council is in talks to hire the well-connected Glover Park Group for a multi-million-dollar public affairs campaign.

Last week Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., reintroduced legislation to eliminate what he calls the "carried interest loophole" by raising tax rates from 15 percent to as much as 35 percent. Levin has authored blls in previous Congresses that passed the House only to founder in the Senate. President Barack Obama is expected to include a similar proposal in his budget, as he has done in the past.

"Raising taxes on this type of investment would discourage the risk-taking required to start, grow, and save companies," said Judge in a statement on the trade group's web site last week.

Judge has contributed more than $50,000 to Democratic candidates, parties, and also to trade association PACs over the years, according to the Sunlight Foundation's Influence Explorer. He has also hosted Washington fundraisers for Democratic candidates.