March 6, 2016
Jennifer Lukawski, a lobbyist with BGR Government Affairs, booked herself a five-day jaunt to Florida beginning March 7. But don’t get too jealous: This is not a sitting-on-the-beach vacation.
Lukawski plans to leave behind her clients — and two kids — to volunteer for Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign ahead of Florida’s March 15 primary.
“I’ll be making calls, knocking on doors and helping at events if they need it,” says Lukawski, who has helped raise more than $70,000 for Rubio.
In an election dominated by disdain for Washington insiders, Rubio recently picked up more endorsements from members of Congress and K Street denizens as Republicans look for a viable alternative to Donald Trump.
K Street types may be best known for their fundraising prowess, policy expertise and help in wooing lawmakers to endorse presidential candidates. But there’s no adrenaline rush that compares to the grunt work of the campaign trail, especially in this contentious election. Getting away from Washington also gives lobbyists new connections forged in the trenches with campaign staff, other volunteers and perhaps even the candidates themselves.
While Lukawski and other lobbyists temporarily hit the campaign trail, special interest groups that routinely lobby Congress for their causes have purely professional reasons for heading out of town. They are setting up in battleground states with the goal of influencing the policy positions that candidates take along the trail.
Either way you look at it, K Street is on the road at a pivotal time. In March, voters in three dozen states and U.S. territories will participate in primaries and caucuses, where the candidates stand to gain the bulk of the delegates needed to win their party’s nomination.
When Lukawski is in Florida, she may bump into folks from AARP, the lobbying group for Americans who are 50 years and older. AARP doesn’t endorse candidates or donate political money. Instead, the group will mobilize its volunteers and staff in Florida, where retirees abound, and other battlegrounds to urge candidates to commit to overhauling Social Security.
“We want to have this conversation between voters and candidates so that the next president and Congress will take action to update Social Security for current and future generations,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “That’s why we’re focusing on presidential primaries…