Lobbyists Prepare for Clinton Win

In late summer, after the Democratic National Convention ended, a powerful trade group in Washington had a message for its industry: Hillary Clinton, at that moment, was likely to win the White House.

That election forecast, delivered on a conference call with other manufacturing associations, was particularly surprising coming from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a nonpartisan trade association that does not endorse candidates but often aligns with Republicans.

Trade associations and lobby shops have for months whispered that the Democratic nominee is likely to defeat Donald Trump in November, and with polls showing her ahead in critical battleground states, many are preparing for that possibility.

“Much of Washington is probably gaming what they consider to be the most prominent scenario,” said Kevin O’Neill, a Republican and co-chairman of the legislative practice group at Arnold & Porter.

The most likely outcome in November, lobbyists believe, is Clinton winning the White House, Democrats winning the Senate and Republicans losing seats in the House.

But lobbyists are planning for every scenario, including a Trump presidency.

“No matter what the polls have said, I think people won’t stop war-gaming scenarios until the votes are in, just because of the volatility involved,” O’Neill said.

The conference call in July, where NAM official Ned Monroe declared a probable Democratic victory, was held as a part of the Council of Manufacturing Association’s election update. The call featured information on a manufacturing get-out-the-vote effort, according to an invitation and another person who was on the call.

“Polling continues to suggest that Clinton is leading the presidential race, however there are many days left in this election for that lead to change,” Monroe, NAM’s senior vice president of external relations, told The Hill in a statement. “Previous long- and short-term presidential campaign survey research suggests that much can still happen in the current campaign and that the twists and turns in this race are far from over.”

The group is engaging with “all candidates” on policy priorities and “is preparing for all possibilities post-November 8,” he added.

“As a lobbying firm, if you’re not looking six to 10 months down the road at all times, you’re not serving your clients right,” said Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas.

“In 2017, neither party will have the White House, 60 votes in the Senate and a House majority,” he said. “It’s going to be Bipartisanville, USA, no matter how you slice it.”

When looking ahead to the next administration and Congress, industry groups have been communicating with their members to gauge their priorities.

Additionally, associations such as NAM and the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR) have been in direct contact with the presidential campaigns.

“We are actively working with both candidates to talk about the transition, to talk about policy, to talk about all of the issues they’re going to face next year,” said Francis Creighton, the executive vice president of government affairs at the FSR.

“People have a perception that lobbying is all about going to Congress and asking for their vote on something. Often it flows in the other direction, and that’s what people are doing: They’re providing briefings, talking to CEOs and others about what this election means for future regulatory standards,” he said. “We’re providing information to both sides and back to our executives.”

Lobbyists and industry associations have begun to develop agendas for the coming year, with many putting the emphasis on tax reform, healthcare reform and infrastructure policy. Both Clinton and Trump have expressed a desire to tackle those issues.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is paying close attention to the policy proposals of both Clinton and Trump and summarizing them for members. The group does not make presidential endorsements.

NFIB spokesman Jack Mozloom said the group is “not making predictions” in the race for the White House but is active in Senate races and helping candidates it says are good for small businesses, including Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Pat Toomey (R-Wis.). All three are facing competitive reelection races.

One complicating factor for the NFIB and others groups when planning for 2017 is the uncertainty about what might happen in a lame-duck session of Congress, between Election Day and the end of the year.

“We’re also focused on what mischief they might attempt in the lame-duck, in terms of preparing our members for the longer term,” Mozloom said.

“No matter what the administration is, there will be some fresh eyes on some old regulations,” said Kevin Kuhlman, the NFIB’s director of legislative affairs, pointing to legislation to phase in the Labor Department’s new overtime standards as something that might get more consideration in 2017.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) aims to push for some ObamaCare tweaks and increasing support for Medicare Advantage.

“Anytime you have a new Congress coming in, you have to start at ground zero,” said spokeswoman Clare Krusing.

One of AHIP’s main priorities, repealing the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance tax, will rely on “preparation meeting opportunity,” said Jeremy Allen, AHIP’s senior vice president of federal affairs.

“This Congress, it’s been hard to move ACA stuff on a stand-alone basis,” he said, adding that the group would be looking for new ways to drive support for repealing the provision.

Meanwhile, within the government, Obama administration officials are exploring their options in the private sector as the president’s term comes to an end.

Julian Ha, the leader of the government affairs and trade association practices at executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, said he has been having an average of one or two meetings per week with officials seeking private sector jobs.

“I expect that to accelerate exponentially,” he said.

Advocates, by and large, are hoping that the lobbying restrictions Obama enacted in 2009 will be left behind in the next White House, no matter who wins.

“I’ve heard that K Street is relishing the prospect of any sort of change, hoping there is increased receptivity to the work done by folks around the corner and the process,” Ha said. “So maybe the ‘Scarlet L’ will not shine as brightly.”

Source Link