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Dee Ann Divis: Risky week for lobbyists as congressional control teeters

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Business,Dee Ann Divis

This may be the riskiest week for lobbyists inthe last 10 years.

With a scant seven days to go before the Nov. 7 election, Democrats seem set to take over the House, the Senate — or both.

For those whose careers depend on access to the halls of power, a well-placed donation to the campaign of a new Democratic majority leader or one of the Democratic election committees could mean the difference between success and failure.

Lobbyists are rushing to contribute to be sure they are welcome if the Democrats win.

If the Democrats lose, however, those same checks could cost access to Republican inner circles.

"We are seeing dramatic shifts," said David Johnson, CEO of the Strategic Vision and a Republican strategist.

"Business interests which were banking on Republicans holding both houses now are hedging their bets."

They are donating to (now House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi’s PAC, (Senate Minority Leader) Harry Reid’s and Charlie Rangel, he said.

Rangel is the ranking minority member on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and could be its chairman if the Democrats win control.

When Rangel started make phone calls to raise money for Tim Mahoney, the Democrat running for the Florida House seat vacated by Rep. Mark Foley, he was able to collect $100,000 in only half a day said Johnson.

"Normally nobody would have returned his phone calls," Johnson said.

Lobbyists are making sure they can get things done, said Johnathan Krasno, associate professor of political science at Binghamton University.

The same thing happened in 1994 when control of Congress shifted to the Republicans.

"If the leadership of Congress is going to be held by Democrats then they definitely want to make certain that they use their campaign contributions to essentially serve as an introduction to those people," said Krasno.

The money started flowing to the Democrats even faster after the Foley scandal broke, said Victoria Farrar-Myers, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

"Dollars [especially these] tend to follow the direction of the polls and the likelihood of shifting majorities," Farrar-Myers said.

But if the Democrats lose — so could anyone who wrote them a check. Johnson said.

Party leaders follow donations carefully, he said, and there is a good chance for blowback against those who bet on the other side.

"They are betting on the fact that they do not see a possibilty for the Republicans to hold onto the House."

Krasno does not think that Democrats will strike out against those who closed their check books 12 years ago when they lost control.

"It is sort of the natural order of things that business will get less out of the Democrats than they would have gotten out of the Republicans but I don’t think it is going to be payback," Krasno told The Examiner.

Johnson does not think the Republicans will be as understanding.

"If Republicans hold on it will be retribution time," said Johnson.

"To get your access back you are going to have to double whatever you gave the Democrats."

How long does that last?

"It usually lasts an entire session," Johnson said, "sometimes longer depending on who you alienated."

Dee Ann Divis is the business editor of The Washington Examiner. Contact her at ddivis@dcexaminer.com

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