Just two days after he proposed a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, traveled to Park City, Utah, for a glittering fund-raiser attended by lobbyists from some of the nation’s largest corporations, all with enormous stakes in the tax battle to come.
The event was intended to honor Mr. Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, whose 979-page tax plan would cut the overall corporate tax rate by creating a new bank tax and a surtax on the very wealthy, among many other changes.
But this gathering ended up serving a decidedly different purpose: the unofficial kickoff of a push to make sure that Mr. Camp’s tax plan dies, a campaign that is highly likely to succeed, particularly now that Mr. Camp himself essentially conceded defeat, announcing this week he will not seek re-election this year.
The twist reflects how lobbying in Washington — and the millions of dollars in fees that lobbyists collect — are often about stopping action and preserving the status quo. Whenever Congress considers major changes to the tax code, lobbyists buy insurance on both sides of the fight. It also reflects a pivot by lobbyists who had spent months cheering Mr. Camp’s three-year effort to draft this giant package, given that its stated purpose was to lower corporate tax rates and simplify the tax code, and who are now working to make sure that the package never becomes law.
“There is no doubt that what they have done is put a big target out there on the backs of some industries,” said Jeffrey A. Forbes, a former staff director at the Senate Finance Committee turned tax lobbyist, who was not at the Park City fund-raising event but represents clients who were.
The undisputed winners of the legislative battle so far are the lobbying shops themselves. Senior congressional tax staff members have already named Mr. Camp’s push the “Build a Vacation Home for a Tax Lobbyist Act.”
Lobbyists say they have to be zealous because the tax code hits almost every corporate interest.
“If you are not at the table, you are on the menu,” said Heather Podesta, a lobbyist whose firm, Heather Podesta & Partners, has at least 10 tax-related corporate clients.