With this month’s release of the latest lobbying disclosure documents, it’s clear that the ebb in the tide of revenue at traditional lobbying firms should continue in 2014. First-quarter disclosures of spending on the services of registered lobbyists were off 2 percent from the first quarter of 2013, threatening K Street with its fourth-straight year of revenue decline.
The unknown known of this now-familiar story, though, is that the money once spent on steak dinners and golf junkets hasn’t evaporated: it’s just going places that have no disclosure requirements under the current Lobbying Disclosure Act. If anything, more money than ever is flowing through Washington’s influence-makers. But it’s all being ferried on what one K Street headhunter described to Roll Call as a “underground lobbying railroad.”
Hundreds of millions of dollars, in fact, are likely streaming into new, “full service” shops that offer a variety of public relations and advocacy services. Unless 20 percent of their activity involves direct lobbying, these firms are not required to disclose any of their revenue.