As Biden enters White House, some allies, former staffers thrive as lobbyists

One lobbyist firm is owned by the brother of Biden's new White House counselor.

January 27, 2021, 9:57 AM

Some of President Joe Biden's former staffers and allies, and those close to them outside the White House, are cashing in as corporate and private interests look to exert their influence over the new administration.

A lobbyist brother of Biden's new White House counselor Steve Ricchetti has reported his best quarter of business since 2009 after picking up several major new clients just before and after the November election.

Ricchetti Inc., the lobbying firm Jeff Ricchetti previously shared with this brother Steve, has signed up nearly a dozen new clients, according to lobbying disclosure reports. Steve Ricchetti sold his stake and left the company in 2012 when he was picked as a counselor to then-Vice President Biden.

Jeff Ricchetti, who is now the only registered lobbyist for Ricchetti Inc., did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

"Jeff has never and will never lobby his brother on behalf of any of his clients, and Steve has had no role in his brother’s business since he sold his stake in the firm in 2012," a source close to Steve Ricchetti told ABC News. "Steve and Jeff keep their professional activities distinctly separate."

The White House declined to comment for this story.

Online retail giant Amazon was among the companies that hired Ricchetti just after Biden's projected victory in the November election, while pharmaceutical companies Eagle Pharmaceuticals, Neurocrine Biosciences and GlaxoSmithKline signed on in the weeks leading up to the election as Biden's lead in the polls appeared to solidify.

In contrast, Ricchetti Inc. only picked up a couple new clients in the four years prior to 2020, according to lobbying records.

By the end of the last quarter of 2020, the firm reported $610,000 in lobbying revenues from 11 clients, including $80,000 from Eagle Pharmaceuticals and $60,000 from Amazon. That's almost four times the amount the firm brought in during the fourth quarter of 2019, and nearly equals the firm's entire lobbying revenue for all of 2019.

Numerous allies and former staffers of an administration revolve around the lobbying world in Washington, and the start of a new administration is a particularly active time for the lobbying world to pick up new clients, said Dan Auble, a senior researcher at Washington-based campaign finance group the Center for Responsive Politics, which first reported on Ricchetti's latest lobbying activities.

"It's not new and it's not particularly surprising that lobbyists and lobbying firms with those connections and the expertise about the way people in the administration think and operate would be valuable to clients," Auble said. "It remains to be seen what kind of conflicts that presents. It's certainly something to be wary of going forward."

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the recent rise of the Ricchetti brothers within and outside the Biden White House mirrors that of the Podesta brothers in the Obama and Clinton administrations, during which John Podesta served in multiple high-ranking positions in the White House while Tony Podesta built the powerful Washington lobbying firm, The Podesta Group.

PHOTO: Then-President Bill Clinton speaks to the press on a golf course while then-Deputy Chief of Staff Steve Ricchetti sits next to him, Aug. 17, 2000.
Then-President Bill Clinton speaks to the press on a golf course while then-Deputy Chief of Staff Steve Ricchetti sits next to him, Aug. 17, 2000.
Mike Theiler/Reuters, FILE

Also thriving as Biden takes office is Biden's former director of legislative affairs, Sudafi Henry, who also had a lucrative final quarter of 2020. His firm, called TheGroup, picked up three major new clients just after the November election: Abbott Lab, the American Health Care Association and Lyft, lobbying records show. It's unclear when he left the administration, but he was with Biden's office at least until 2012.

Named a "top-performing lobbying firm" by Bloomberg Government in 2019, Henry's firm brought in a total of $620,000 from various high-powered clients in the final quarter of 2020, up from $370,000 in the fourth quarter of the previous year.

TheGroup's latest clients join a Rolodex of existing big-name corporate clients, including PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase, FedEx, Facebook, BP America, Dell and 3M.

Henry did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

During the Trump administration, close allies of Donald Trump including former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Trump confidant and fundraiser Brian Ballard similarly ran lucrative lobbying businesses.

Ballard, in fact, has made a quick transition following Biden's victory. Earlier this month, his firm, Ballard Partners, announced that it was adding some big Democratic names to its team, including Courtney Whitney, a top Democratic fundraiser who was a consultant for the pro-Biden super PAC Priorities USA.

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