Washington's lobbying industry, robbed of its glory days by scandals and ethics rules, is bracing to get whacked again. But this time it's not the public, President Obama or the House and Senate Ethics Committees aiming a shotgun at K Street.
In what could be the biggest threat to their livelihood, Washington's lobbyists are about to be challenged by the very same Super PACs that flooded millions of dollars into the 2016 presidential and Senate campaigns.
"Your life is probably going to get worse," warned Meredith McGehee, who lobbies for tougher ethics rules.
At issue: Rules-constrained lobbyists, limited on how much they can spend on entertainment and campaign contributions, will soon face competition from Super PACs that can spend freely to lobby. Several are eyeing big-dollar, media-heavy campaigns on issues like taxes and spending to move public opinion, threatening K Street's traditional approach of dispatching lobbyists to woo individual lawmakers with persuasion and donations.
McGehee, speaking at the annual meeting of the American League of Lobbyists Tuesday, said that Super PAC spending is likely to get the attention of Capitol Hill more than lobbyists.
And to fight for attention, she said that lobbyists will likely have to step up their campaign contributions to lawmakers, either by helping to bundle donations or even writing checks to Super PACs that support the position of the lobbyists. Simply maxing out legal contribution levels to favored lawmakers is "not good enough," said McGehee.
"It's now a free-for-all," added McGehee, the principal of McGehee Strategies and the policy director of the Campaign Legal Center.
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