Though the presidential election is more than 14 months away and competitive primary races for both major parties are in full swing, lobbying firms in Washington, DC and the people who work for them are so far placing their political bets on the establishment campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton and to a slightly lesser degree Republican Jeb Bush.
According to an analysis of filings from registered K Street firms by The Hill, Clinton and Bush combined have received approximately $1 million so far this year from professional influence peddlers who play such an outsized role on Capitol Hill – substantially more than other candidates in the field.
As The Hill reports:
While many lobbyists are holding their pocketbooks in the early stages of the 2016 election cycle, Clinton — the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination — received at least $625,703 from 316 registered lobbyists and corporate PACs during the first half of the year, according to disclosure forms.
“She’s going at it for the second time, and there is a list of people who are very committed to her from eight years ago,” said Al Motteur, senior Democratic lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and longtime Clinton supporter. Motteur has not only given to the campaign, but is also bundling cash from other donors.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ranks as a distant second in the influence industry, collecting $444,500 from 140 lobbyists.
The more than $1 million shelled out to Clinton and Bush in the first half on 2015 represents the lion’s share of contributions from K Streeters to presidential campaigns, as lobbyists, at least for now, appear most comfortable giving to establishment candidates.
The donations are a shift from the last couple election cycles, especially on the Democratic side. President Obama made campaign promises in 2008 and 2012 not to take money from registered lobbyists — in addition to vowing to ban them from the administration — so the early donations signal that K Street hopes to be back in good graces when the next administration takes over the White House.
With Clinton the clear leader among candidates from either party, her Democratic rivals have garnered little support. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Mally so far has raised just over $50,000 from lobbying firms.
Meanwhile—though his campaign has eschewed corporate PACs and now reports surging campaign donations with approximately 350,000 individual small donors—Bernie Sanders has received a grand total of $420 from the K Street crowd.