Top Lobbyists 2016: Grassroots

Top Lobbyists 2016: Grassroots
© Greg Nash

Lobbying runs deep in Washington.

Every day, thousands of law firms, associations and advocacy groups seek to exert influence over policymaking away from the glare of presidential and congressional politics.

In such a crowded field, a select few have shown an ability to get things done — and it’s those movers and shakers who are among The Hill’s Top Lobbyists.

From the “hired guns” who populate K Street, to the lobbyists who derive strength from grassroots organizing, to the trade associations harnessing industry might, to the professionals representing America’s biggest companies, influence comes in many forms.

Many of the people on The Hill’s list are not formally registered to lobby. We use the term broadly here to encompass Washington’s influence arena and those who do battle within it.

 

Anna Aurilio, Environment America

Aurilio is working to dramatically increase the use of renewable energy, with a focus on solar power, as green advocates seek to build on the Obama administration’s policies.

 

Matt Bennett, Third Way

Bennett’s think tank carries the banner for centrism and has spoken up over the last year about new gun regulations, free trade, entitlement reform and updates to No Child Left Behind.

 

Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group

The group played a leading role in passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a landmark regulatory overhaul that was decades in the making.

 

Chris Cox, National Rifle Association

Cox shifted the gun lobby’s focus to blocking the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, arguing the judge is hostile to the Second Amendment.

 

Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense

Ellis is vice president of the respected budget watchdog, which advocates against excessive spending and policies that benefit special interests.

 

Lily Eskelsen García, National Education Association

From fighting for smaller class sizes to advocating a repeal of No Child Left Behind, Eskelsen García’s word carries weight as head of the nation’s largest labor union.  

 

Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers

Gerard, whose father worked as a miner and union activist, has spent more than 15 years at the helm of the union; this year, it’s on pace to spend more on federal lobbying than ever before.

 

David Goldston and Scott Slesinger, Natural Resources Defense Council

Goldston, the council’s government affairs and advocacy head, and Slesinger, its legislative affairs director, went on the offensive this year, pushing lawmakers on funding for Flint, Mich., and attacking anti-environment riders in spending bills.  

 

Bradley Gordon, American Israel Public Affairs Committee

AIPAC is a vigilant protector of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and its annual policy conference in Washington is a must-stop for foreign policy-minded politicians and presidential candidates.

 

Wade Henderson, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Henderson has had an illustrious career fighting for African-Americans, women and the LGBT community; he is stepping down at the end of 2016 after leading the lobbying arm of the civil rights group for 20 years.

 

Mary Kay Henry, Service Employees International Union

Henry is pressuring lawmakers around the country to increase wages for home care and child care workers, bolstered by the union’s robust membership.

 

Craig Holman, Public Citizen

With populist sentiment running high this year, Holman is working to convince Capitol Hill that the time has come for ethics and campaign finance reforms. 

 

Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund

Krupp and his group had a big victory to celebrate this year with the passage of a chemical safety overhaul; now they are among the leaders of the push for the Obama administration to crack down on methane emissions.

 

Nancy LeaMond, AARP

LeaMond’s group has driven debate about Social Security and Medicare this election year on behalf of older Americans — a powerful voting bloc no politician can ignore.

 

Michael Macleod-Ball, American Civil Liberties Union

Macleod-Ball brings campaign and government experience to the table as the ACLU works on hot-button issues such as legislation banning revenge porn, criminal justice reform and police surveillance.

 

Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First

Human Rights First has been at the forefront of fights over Guantánamo Bay, refugees and the government’s drone strike program.

 

Meredith McGehee, Issue One

After more than a decade directing policy at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), McGehee is taking up the fight for campaign finance reform at Issue One, though she remains an adviser to the CLC.

 

Bill McKibben and May Boeve, 350.org

Anti-fossil fuel activists scored a triumph last year when President Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline; 350.org, founded by McKibben and led by Boeve, has become a potent force for organizing.

 

Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. Public Interest Research Group

The creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau came in part due to the advocacy of Mierzwinski, who is a staunch advocate for government action against predatory financial practices.

 

Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World

The Christian organization is working toward the goal of ending hunger worldwide by the year 2030.

 

Matthew Myers, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Myers got a win this year when the Food and Drug Administration finalized its first-ever regulations for cigars and electronic cigarettes, but he is still seeking action to stop the explosive growth of e-cigarette use among teenagers.

 

Michael Needham, Heritage Action for America

Needham’s group stands watch for conservatism with a key vote system that has the power to make or break votes in Congress.

 

Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform

Norquist will be a force to be reckoned with in the tax reform debate. This year, his group has pounded the drum for the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

 

Tim Phillips, Americans for Prosperity

Backed by conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch, Americans for Prosperity has advocated against ObamaCare “bailouts” to insurance companies and opposed efforts to make it easier for the Export-Import Bank to approve large loans.

 

Melinda Pierce, Sierra Club

Pierce and the Sierra Club have been on the frontlines of all of the major environmental battles in Congress this year, including work on the broad energy bill and federal aid for Flint, Mich.

 

Ron Pollack, Families USA

Pollack is serving his final year at Families USA, capping a 33-year career during which he served as a driving force behind ObamaCare’s passage and rollout.

 

Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Rieckhoff’s group is rising in power and visibility, this year hosting the first presidential forum geared toward veterans issues. 

 

Andrew Roth, Club for Growth

The Club is a steadfast champion of the free market, seeking cuts to discretionary spending, expanded trade, tax reform and school choice. 

 

Larry Noble, Campaign Legal Center

Noble serves as the general counsel at the organization filled with political lawyers taking campaigns of both parties to task this cycle.

 

Lee Saunders, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

Also known as AFSCME, the formidable union has fought to preserve the Labor Department’s overtime rule.

 

Tom Schatz, Citizens Against Government Waste

Schatz keeps the spotlight on waste, fraud and abuse in government; his group releases an annual “Congressional Pig Book” that describes pork-barrel projects in appropriations legislation.

 

Christopher Shelton, Communications Workers of America

Shelton took the reins of the union a little more than one year ago and has already put points on the board, helping workers at Verizon win pay raises.

 

Tiernan Sittenfeld, League of Conservation Voters

The League of Conservation Voters aimed to drop $40 million on the 2016 election, making the group — and its endorsements, often voiced by Sittenfeld — one of the biggest environmental players of the cycle. 

 

Richard Trumka, Thea Lee and Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO

A leading voice in the opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Trumka and his team personify union power.

 

Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21

A longtime advocate who helms the organization, Wertheimer is indefatigable in his pursuit of campaign finance reform and heightened disclosure rules for political donations.

 

Dennis Williams, United Auto Workers

Williams was instrumental in the successful push to ensure that academic workers at private colleges and universities are employees covered by federal labor law.

 

Dylan Williams, J Street

The left-leaning U.S.-Israel group has put its weight behind the nuclear deal with Iran, airing ads against lawmakers in tough Senate races who opposed the accord.

See The Hill's list of Top Association Lobbyists here.