Trump-connected lobbying firms start the new year strong

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Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is one of several former Trump aides that has leveraged his connection to the White House (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Connections are everything in Washington and having White House contacts is a golden ticket. Naturally, a number of lobbying firms with links to the Trump administration have attracted high-profile clients and continued to prosper through the first quarter of 2019.

Perhaps the most keyed-in firm to Donald Trump’s orbit, Ballard Partners reported taking in $4.2 million from clients in the first quarter. Founded by Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard after the 2016 election, the firm has enjoyed a metoeric rise thanks to its White House connections. In 2017, Ballard Partners reported taking in $9.8 million for lobbying and by 2018 that number grew to $18.3 million, granting Ballard the title of “the most powerful lobbyist in Trump’s Washington.”

To kick off 2019, the firm added new high-profile clients such as General Motors and Boeing while retaining many of its previous clients. GEO Group, a private prison contractor with interest in the southern border, paid Ballard’s firm $150,000 in the first quarter of 2019 after paying nearly $1.2 million over the last two years. Detroit International Bridge, which wants the Trump administration to appoint the company to build a U.S.-Canadian border bridge, spent $230,000 with Ballard Partners in the first quarter.

The firm boasts a number of “revolving door” lobbyists with Trump connections, enlisting Raj Shah, former White House deputy press secretary and Pam Bondi, former Florida attorney general and Trump transition team member, among others.

A Corey Lewandowski-linked firm, Turnberry Solutions, is based out of a D.C. row home frequented by the former Trump campaign manager, but Lewandowski maintains he doesn’t do any work that requires him to be a lobbyist. Former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who resigned under pressure after numerous ethics investigations were launched into his behavior, joined Turnberry after he left the Cabinet. Jason Osborne, a former senior advisor to the Trump campaign and formerly of Avenue Strategies is a registered lobbyist at the firm.

The firm’s lobbying grew from $510,000 to $790,000 between 2017 and 2018, and the momentum seems to have carried into 2019. Turnberry reported $230,000 in lobbying for the first quarter. Among other clients, it continues to represent T-Mobile as the company seeks a merger with Sprint.      

Avenue Strategies, co-founded by Barry Bennett, a senior Trump campaign advisor, and Lewandowski, who left left the firm in 2017, reported $110,000 in the first quarter. The firm retained two of its previous clients for the first quarter of 2019, Citgo Petroleum, owned by Venezuelan government-controlled oil company PDVSA, and the Northwest Hazelnut Company/George Packing Company which processes and packs hazelnuts for shipment.

Though Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has been a lobbying powerhouse for decades, it reached record numbers in 2018 when it brought in more than $31 million from clients. That momentum continued in the first quarter of 2019 as the firm reported nearly $9 million in revenue.

Lobbying the Trump administration has proved difficult for some K Street firms, giving those with White House connections an edge. Marc Lampkin, manager partner of Brownstein’s DC office and a major fundraiser for Trump’s campaign, has helped establish a channel to the Trump administration for U.S. clients and foreign governments, chiefly Saudi Arabia. The firm expanded its already-massive client base in 2019 by representing Purdue Pharma as the Trump administration considers drug pricing reforms.

International law firm Holland & Knight has a high-profile Trump world connection in Scott Mason, former director of congressional relations for the 2016 Trump campaign. The firm hired Mason as its senior policy advisor just after the 2016 election. The firm made around $24 million from lobbying in 2018 — so far in 2019 they have raked in $5.64 million.

Some of the clients Mason took on for Holland & Knight in the first quarter include controversial Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, Venezuelan businessman Mauro Libi, along with five other companies.   

Lauren Maddox, another senior policy advisor at Holland & Knight, was also a member of the Trump transition team. As a lobbyist, she represented several education-connected organizations like the Los Angeles Community College District so far in 2019.  

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