It’s a gold rush for lobbying firms with Biden ties
Shops that employed former aides to the current president saw massive increases in clients and fees in 2021.
Washington’s top lobbying firms reported record lobbying revenues in 2021, and perhaps no one benefited more than lobbying shops with ties to President Joe Biden and his administration.
At Putala Strategies, a firm run by Chris Putala, a former aide to Biden from his time on the Senate Judiciary Committee, annual lobbying revenues soared from $1.3 million in 2020 to $4 million in 2021 — an increase of more than 200 percent — according to a review of lobbying disclosures.
Putala signed more than a dozen new clients in 2021, including the powerful drug lobby the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America and the company behind the KeystoneXL pipeline, both of which were fighting unfavorable policy proposals from Biden. That’s nearly as many as the one-man firm signed in the entire decade prior. (Putala signed no new clients between 2016 and 2020, when his former boss was no longer in office, according to lobbying disclosures.)
Lobbying disclosures show that throughout the year, Putala lobbied the White House or the Executive Office of the President on behalf of several prominent corporate clients including T-Mobile and Comcast. Putala also lobbied the White House on behalf of several tech trade associations, the Entertainment Software Association and the NCTA — The Internet & Television Association, as well as the U.S. subsidiary of the Dutch chipmaker ASML. Putala did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jeff Ricchetti, the brother of top Biden adviser Steve Ricchetti, saw lobbying revenues continue to climb for his firm Ricchetti Inc., a trend that began in 2020 when Biden became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Ricchetti’s firm brought in $3.2 million in lobbying fees in 2021, up from $1.3 million in 2020 — a 150 percent increase. Ricchetti did not report lobbying the White House for any of his clients last quarter, having formally sworn off lobbying the West Wing amid backlash over a growing contingent of family members joining the Biden administration.
Still, he reported lobbying the House and Senate for a number of blue chip companies including Amazon and General Motors, the pharmaceutical companies Horizon Therapeutics and GlaxoSmithKline and Finseca, a trade group representing life insurers and financial planners, all on key parts of Biden’s legislative agenda. Ricchetti did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At TheGROUP D.C., where Sudafi Henry, Biden’s former vice presidential director of legislative affairs, is a partner, annual lobbying revenues more than doubled from $3.6 million in 2020 to $7.5 million in 2021. The firm also employs Kwabena Nsiah, who served as chief of staff to Biden’s top Hill liaison Cedric Richmond during Richmond’s time in the House. Nsiah was also a congressional aide to former Rep. Xavier Becerra, now Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary.
Like other firms with ties to Biden or his aides, TheGROUP boasts a growing roster of major corporate clients, from Pfizer to Lyft to Facebook parent company Meta.
According to disclosures, Henry, Nsiah and their firm lobbied the White House on behalf of several of those clients over the past year, including Abbott Labs (one of the major manufacturers of Covid tests), the American Health Care Association, the U.S. Black Chambers Inc., Charter Communications, Dell and Pfizer. It was the first time the firm has ever reported lobbying the White House. TheGROUP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Putala, Richetti and TheGROUP weren’t the only firms reaping the benefits of the handover from Republican to Democratic control of Washington last year. K Street shattered lobbying fee records they set only a year prior, as a new administration and an all-Democratic Washington worked to enact trillions of dollars in new spending while cracking down on an array of sectors from the tech industry to fossil fuels and pharmaceuticals.
The passage of yet another coronavirus relief package in the spring and the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the fall, along with the on-again-off-again negotiations on another $1 trillion-plus social spending and climate package, drove new clients from new industries into lobbyists’ arms.
The new White House even lured one of K Street’s biggest names back into the influence game. Tony Podesta, the Democratic super lobbyist whose eponymous firm The Podesta Group collapsed after it came under scrutiny from special counsel Robert Mueller, reemerged on the lobbying scene this year, bringing in $1 million from the blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei in just six months of work, lobbying disclosures show.