Lobbyists Looking Busy While Hill at a Standstill

Posted February 8, 2010 at 5:45pm

As most of Washington, D.C., spent Monday digging out from the weekend’s blizzard and bracing for another snowstorm expected today, lobbyists continued to press ahead even though some of their signature issues are hanging in limbo.

“This week is pretty much scratched,” admitted one Democratic lobbyist, noting that Members weren’t expected back in town until this evening at the earliest. “The big push was to get jobs legislation done this week; I would have given that a 50-50 chance with no precipitation. This nails it in the coffin.”

Treacherous roads, including main thoroughfares such as K Street itself, which was limited to single-lane traffic Monday morning, kept many lobbyists from heading into the office. And most conceded that very little was going to get accomplished before next week’s Presidents Day recess.

But that doesn’t mean lobbyists won’t keep trying to press their clients’ causes.

“As long as you have Internet and the BlackBerry, things can hum along for a day or two,” said Republican lobbyist Dan Mattoon of Mattoon & Associates.

Several lobbyists said they would continue to hold conference calls and had plans to do Hill meetings with staff later in the week.

“We are obviously buried just like everyone else — but we are open and serving clients,” said Alex Vogel of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. “We are like the Postal Service: Neither rain, now snow, nor dark of night will keep us from making our appointed rounds.”

David Di Martino of Blue Line Strategic Communications said that he didn’t even attempt going downtown with the Metro problems, closed federal government and school cancellations.

Instead, Di Martino is balancing parenting and working at home taking “lots of conference calls with the mute button on to spare my colleagues the noise of my kids arguing over who gets the next turn on Webkinz.com” and “sneaking a few minutes here and there to get online and try to move the ball forward on some projects.”

One weather-related group, the American Wind Energy Association, wasn’t scared away by the projected storm. The trade group held fast to its plans to hold a briefing this morning on the 2010 outlook for the renewable energy sector.

Still, with even more snow on the way, several fundraisers and events were postponed.

The Nuclear Energy Institute delayed its annual Welcome Back Congress reception scheduled for this evening. The group has more than 450 RSVPs but had concerns about the weather, according to NEI’s Hannah Simone.

Republican fundraiser Monica Notzon of the Bellwether Group also decided to hold off on a handful of fundraisers scheduled this week.

“We decided to pull the plug on nearly all of our events this week,” Notzon said. “We’re asking our Members, while they are snowed in, to make calls.”

Democratic fundraiser Mike Fraioli of Fraioli & Associates said he was still deciding whether to pull the plug on events this week.

Lifetime Networks and VOICE’s party at the W Hotel for the book launch of “Secrets of Powerful Women: Leading Change for a New Generation” was also shelved. The event was expected to draw several Members, including Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.).

While K Streeters contemplated what was doable before the upcoming weeklong recess, some lobbyists were trying to figure out how to get back into town after the area’s airports shut down over the weekend.

Foley & Lardner’s Cleta Mitchell was still trying to make it back Monday from an Orlando, Fla., American Bar Association meeting. After several attempts to fly back to D.C. failed, Mitchell hopped a flight to New York in hopes of getting inside the Beltway before the next snowstorm.

Despite traveling sans computer, Mitchell said she’s been getting pressure to answer questions on documents. Her motto: “People are just going to have to jettison the nonessentials this week.”