Ernst & Young, the global accounting firm, hosted a fund-raising breakfast late last month for Representative Dave Camp that drew so many donors the firm’s lobbyists had to pull extra chairs into their largest conference room.
The day before, Mr. Camp was at a Capitol Hill town house owned by a founder of the Online Lenders Alliance, raising thousands of dollars more. And then there was the dinner reception and fund-raiser at Carmine’s, a downtown Italian restaurant, for Mr. Camp that same week.
To an outsider, it might be confounding why Mr. Camp, a relatively unknown Michigan Republican who has no viable challenger in his re-election bid this year, would be seeing such a flood of cash, including contributions from names like Bob Dole, the former United States senator turned lobbyist, and Joseph E. Gallo, the chief executive of E. & J. Gallo Winery in California.
But there is nothing mysterious for the lobbyists and corporate executives writing most of these checks. Mr. Camp is slated to take over the powerful, tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans win the majority next week, transforming this low-key conservative Republican almost overnight into one of the most powerful men in town.
Across Washington, lobbyists have been working behind the scenes now for months to prepare for this possible power shift. Former aides to Mr. Camp, who now work as lobbyists, are checking in with their onetime boss, chatting with him and his aides about staff appointments he might make when he takes over the Ways and Means Committee, and what tax or health care issues will be at the top of his agenda. Other lobbyists have gone to his staff to try to get to the head of the line in presenting proposed tax changes that will benefit their clients.
“You don’t wait until Nov. 3 and say, ‘What is the plan,’ ” said Jennifer Bell, a former aide to Mr. Camp who is now a health care lobbyist. She flew to Michigan last month in part to catch up with Mr. Camp while he was in his district. “Obviously, it is the majority that sets the agenda.”
The chairman’s spot on the Ways and Means Committee has long been a magnet for big dollars; Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York, saw his campaign war accounts surge after he took over the committee in 2007.
The full list of likely Republican chairmen is not yet known. The choices are based on a mix of seniority and popularity, and some positions are still up for grabs. And, of course, voters still have to decide, regardless of what the polls are predicting, which party will control Congress. Still, the jockeying to influence the class of likely new leaders started months ago.
Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California, who is slated to take over the Armed Services Committee, has been a particular focus of attention, as military contractors fret over spending cuts proposed by the Obama administration.
"You don’t wait until Nov. 3 and say, ‘What is the plan,’ "
For his 2008 campaign, Mr. McKeon collected $86,000 from the military industry for his political action committee and re-election bid. This time, even before the two-year election cycle is over, he has pulled in nearly $400,000, and has emerged as the top recipient of money in both the House and the Senate from military contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Two of his former aides — who now work as military industry lobbyists — cornered him last month at a Capitol Hill reception held to unveil a portrait of Mr. McKeon, painted to honor his former service as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee. (He held that spot for only several months, just before Republicans last lost control of Congress, but he still had a portrait commissioned.)
Recognizing the enormous power Mr. McKeon could soon have in helping shape Defense Department policy and spending, military contractors are teaming up with his office to form a new association of military suppliers they are calling the Aerospace Defense Coalition of Santa Clarita Valley, to make sure he can deliver as much money as possible to his district in California, where several of the big contractors already have large operations.
Mr. McKeon, who is known as Buck, has already hinted to industry lobbyists that he wants to push for more spending on unmanned aerial vehicles, which could benefit contractors in his district.
“Buck is a great advocate for our war fighters and for the industrial capabilities that support their mission,” said Hanz C. Heinrichs, a former aide to Mr. McKeon who now represents military contractors like L3 Communications..
One lobbyist who knows Mr. McKeon well and has contributed the maximum allowed by law to his re-election campaign has met with several military contractors in recent weeks as he seeks a way to profit from the rise of Mr. McKeon to chairman.
“I don’t want to count the chickens before they hatch,” said the lobbyist, referring not to the possible Republican takeover but to his possible surge in new clients. “But I would be surprised if it didn’t help me in one way or another. Business should be very good.”
Mr. McKeon, in a statement, said that if named chairman, he would continue a tradition of bipartisan leadership at the Armed Services Committee, “providing our warfighters and their families with the resources and support they need — and that commitment will continue regardless of the outcome in November.”
Mr. Camp declined a request for comment, but an aide to Mr. Camp, Sage Eastman, said his agenda would be dictated by voters not lobbyists.
“You are hired or fired based on your ability to reflect the will of the American people,” Mr. Eastman said.
The possible shift in power has also generated excitement among energy-sector lobbyists, who welcome the likely rise of Representative Doc Hastings, Republican of Washington, as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. Even while oil was still spilling into the Gulf of Mexico this summer, Mr. Hastings was condemning the moratorium on new drilling, and tried to block a Democrat-backed bill that would impose new safety standards on off-shore drilling operations, while also increasing taxes that oil drilling companies must pay.
Mr. Hastings has long been popular with the oil and gas interests. He got $10,000 from the industries in the last election cycle. But this time around, he has collected $70,000, making him one of the top recipients of money from those industries. That contrasts with Representative Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West Virginia, the current committee chairman, who has been an outspoken critic of the oil industry, but is a major recipient of donations from railroad and coal mining executives.
Meet the new boss(es)
Industry lobbyists said they were hopeful that the Natural Resources Committee under Mr. Hastings would take a more aggressive stand in challenging the many costly environmental and safety regulations the Obama administration has tried to impose on the industry.
“Clearly, he is pro-energy development,” said Michael D. Olsen, a former Natural Resources Committee staff member and Bush administration Interior Department official, who now is a lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani, a firm that specializes in energy.
In some cases, the lobbyists must wait for outcomes, like the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, which controls all federal spending. Representative Jerry Lewis of California is the senior Republican on the panel, but he may be blocked from the post because of party-imposed term limits.
Besides the jobs that affect certain industries, other names are emerging for leadership positions in the new Congress.
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who would lead the Budget Committee, has been a point person for Republican leaders on fiscal issues in recent years. Mr. Ryan is one of the “Young Guns,” a moniker that Republicans have used to brand a new generation of leadership, along with a recently released book of the same name.
Representative Darrell Issa of California is poised to become the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which puts him in position to investigate the Obama administration and issue subpoenas.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida is expected to become chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Born in Havana, she is a strong opponent of the Communist government in Cuba and at one point called publicly for the assassination of Fidel Castro.
Fund-raising for all of these members is likely to become easier. Ed Kutler, a Republican lobbyist close to Mr. Camp, found that out when he organized a fund-raising event for him this year.
“I was calling around inviting clients to the event, asking if they would be willing to help out,” said Mr. Kutler, a onetime Republican aide in the House. “With one client, at first he said, ‘Probably not.’ Then there was a pause and he said, ‘If Republicans take over, could he be chairman?’ And then he said, ‘O.K., put me down.’ ”