Lobbyists for business interests say they’re implementing workarounds to get to know the 32 incoming freshman Democratic House members who have sworn off corporate political action committee dollars.
Those newbies, in town this week for member orientation, comprise the majority of what will be a total of 45 representatives and senators in the 116th Congress who have pledged to reject donations from business PACs.
Instead of PAC dollars, corporate interests plan to rely on individual personal donations from their executives, lobbyists and other consultants, instead of the collective contributions from corporate PACs. In addition, lobbyists will be sure to attend meet-and-greets happening over the coming days and weeks with the new members.
Some lobbyists said they also would rely on policy partnerships with think tanks, grassroots activist organizations and charities — as well as shopping op-eds focused on specific lawmakers — for entree to the newly-elected members of Congress.
CR Wooters, a lobbyist at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas and a former Democratic congressional aide, says corporate clients and the incoming lawmakers will have much to discuss on policy issues, including proposals on paid leave or increasing the federal minimum wage — and PACs aren’t a necessary conduit to those talks.
“Those could be very productive conversations,” Wooters said, as lobbyists educate new members about issues they may never have encountered before. “Businesses can also spend a lot of time educating new members on trade and tariffs, or maybe you have no idea what cybersecurity is. Now you’re having to deal with giant issues like health care and education.”
“The old way of saying, ‘We’ll write them a check’ just feels lazy and dated to me,” Wooters said.