Party on K Street? Why fat times may be back for lobbyists

K Street, the euphemism for influence peddlers in Washington, is the center of the swamp that President Trump said he would drain.

But early indications are that changes in Obama-era lobbying rules along with overhauls of health care, financial industry regulations, the tax code, and immigration policy could keep the swamp alive. Trump's litany of executive orders could bring the fat times back for the army of former government officials, lawyers, and operatives who represent corporate America, Wall Street, Big Pharma, agriculture interests and any other group with an agenda.

More from Fiscal Times: How Big Pharma Lobbyists Keep Medicare Drug Prices High

Bruce Mehlman, a Republican lobbyist at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, told The Hill that "companies and associations are gearing up for significant reform opportunities occasioned by an energetic new administration taking office with a supportive Congress."

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guests fill hte West Front of the US Caaptol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017, before the swearing-in ceremony of US President-elect Donald Trump. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, left, wipes the shoulder of U.S. President Barack Obama while standing outside of the White House ahead of the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Trump is the first president since the dawn of national polling in the late 1930s to enter office with the approval of fewer than half of Americans -- in his case only 40 percent. Photographer: TKTK/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (L-R) Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Vanessa Trump and Jared Kushner arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: The presidential motorcade drives down Pennsylvania Ave towards the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush wave as they arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn Carter arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US Chief Justice John Roberts (C-front) arrives with US justice William Rehnquist (L) on the platform of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017, before the swearing-in ceremony of US President-elect Donald Trump. / AFP / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former U.S. Preident George W. Bush and former first landy Laura Bush arrive at the swearing in ceremony at the United States Capitol January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States today. (Photo by Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017. / AFP / POOL / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
US President elect Donald Trump (R) and Vice President elect Mike Pence seat during the swearing-in ceremony on in front of the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as his wife Karen Pence looks on, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump shakes hands with Vice President Mike Pence on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President elect Donald Trump (C) salutes his daughter Ivanka and other family members during the swearing-in ceremony on in front of the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as President on January 20, 2017 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Attendees listen as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States today, in a celebration of American unity for a country that is anything but unified. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees stand during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States today, in a celebration of American unity for a country that is anything but unified. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump(L) wait with former President Barack Obama(2nd-R) and Michelle obama before their departure from the US Capitol after Trump's inauguration ceremonies at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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There was a significant drop last year in the amount of money spent on lobbying -- $3.1 billion, the smallest number since 2007 -- and the number of registered lobbyists decreased 3.2 percent from 2015, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

The Hill reported that 9 out of 11 lobbying firms that had revenue of more than $15 million in 2016 saw an election-year decrease over 2015. Even Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a K Street powerhouse, earned $36 million last year, compared with $39 million in 2015.

But the Trump Administration is expected to usher in more prosperous days. One reason is that the rules of engagement have changed.

More from Fiscal Times: Trump Puts Five-Year Lobbying Ban on his Political Appointees

Among the chief differences between the Obama and Trump rules is that while officials the new President appoints cannot lobby the agency for which they worked for five years after leaving office, they can lobby other agencies. And lobbyists can join the Administration if they avoid working on policies they previously sought to influence.

In a statement after Trump laid out his lobbying rules last week, the bipartisan Center for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington said that despite some positive features, his Executive Order was a step backward from reforms Obama had put in place.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) is greeted by U.S. President Donald Trump prior to holdiing talks at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd L) are seen at Trump International Golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., February 11, 2017. Picture taken February 11, 2017. Cabinet Public Relations Office/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
U.S. President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump (R), Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe (L) pose for a photograph before attending dinner at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Akie Abe (R) attend dinner with U.S. President Donald Trump his wife Melania (L) at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump holds his earpiece as he holds a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (not pictured) at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump watches as Vice President Mike Pence (R) swears in Jeff Sessions (L) as U.S. Attorney General while his wife Mary Sessions holds the Bible in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet a marching band as they arrive at Trump International Golf club to watch the Super Bowl LI between New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
US President Donald Trump watches the Super Bowl with First Lady Melania Trump (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (L) at Trump International Golf Club Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, Florida on February 5, 2017. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump salutes before boarding Air Force One from MacDill Air Force Base on February 6, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. President Donald Trump on Monday paid his first visit to US Central Command, meeting officers who will form the tip of the spear in implementing his new strategy to defeat the Islamic State group. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend the 60th Annual Red Cross Gala at Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., February 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (L) listens as U.S. President Donald Trump talks to journalists members of the travel pool on board the Air Force One during his trip to Palm Beach, Florida while flying over South Carolina, U.S., February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a strategy and policy forum with chief executives of major U.S. companies at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence leaves after meeting with Harley Davidson executives at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump pulls a chair out for Paula White from the New Christian Destiny Center to as they attend a meeting regarding the supreme court nomination at the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to announce his nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the empty associate justice seat of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
On Friday, February 3, a Marine salutes U.S. President Donald Trump as he boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, en route to Andrews Airforce Base where he will depart for Palm Beach, Florida.. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump sits after signing a memorandum about Labor Department's rules on investing in the Oval Office of the White House on February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 03: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers opening remarks at the beginning of a policy forum with (L-R) daughter Ivanka Trump, Global Infrastructure Partners Chairman Adebayo Ogunlesi, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Blackstone Group Chairman and CEO Stephen Schwarzman and other business leaders in the State Dining Room at the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the automotive and manufacturing industries, the financial and retail services and other powerful global businesses were invited to the meeting with Trump, his advisors and family. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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U.S. President Donald Trump walks from the Oval Office to Marine One upon his departure from the White House in Washington January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
The Marine One helicopter transporting U.S. President Donald Trump is seen as it departs from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., for a trip to Philadelphia, January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump holds an executive order dealing with members of the administration lobbying foreign governments, after signing it in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Members of a ceremonial guard carry flags prior to the arrival of British Prime Theresa May at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May arrive to speak after their meeting at the presidential complex in Ankara on January 28, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May on January 28 promised steps to ramp up trade between Turkey and Britain ahead of Brexit but also urged Ankara to uphold human rights following a failed coup. On her first visit to Turkey as premier and fresh from meeting new US President Donald Trump at the White House, May held three hours of talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. / AFP / Adem ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in The Oval Office at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Members of the Trump administration walk through the colonnade of the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The statement issued by CREW Chair Norman Eisen, an ethics adviser to Obama, and Vice-Chair Richard Painter, an ethics adviser to George W. Bush, said in part: "[The Trump EO] removes the ban on lobbyists going to work in the agencies that they lobbied. ...It's as if their former employers have embedded agents of influence in the government."

Trump's order allows lobbyists to work in his Administration as long as they are not involved in issues about which they lobbied in the two previous years. The Obama rules flatly barred anyone from joining his Administration if they had been registered lobbyists during the preceding year.

Obama administration officials were also restricted from contacting their former agencies for two years after leaving office. Under Trump's EO, that is down to one year except for Cabinet-level officials.

In an interview with Politico, Eisen said: "The single biggest insulation that we had, in retrospect, against scandal in the Obama administration was the two-year exit ban. People will pay you to put you on ice for one year and then after that year is up to ply your contacts. But no one wants to pay you to put you in cold storage for two years."

The CREW statement also said that Trump "removes Obama's additional revolving door restrictions on non-lobbyists when they leave the government. This is another important problem in the tilted special interest playing field: shadow lobbying by those who are not registered and attempt to influence the system. Instead of continuing the Obama restrictions, or even making them tougher, Trump has eliminated them."

In the last three months of 2016, "the number of registered lobbyists dipped to 9,050 — the smallest number since 2008, when quarterly filing began," according to Ashley Balcerzak, writing for the CRP's OpenSecretsblog.

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44 iconic photos of Barack Obama's presidency
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44 iconic photos of Barack Obama's presidency

Barack Obama takes a moment to reflect before walking on stage to take the oath of office.

Photo Credit: The White House

Barack Obama and the First Lady share a tender moment during the Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20, 2009. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Obama enters the Oval Office on the first day of his presidency. 

Photo Credit: The White House

President Obama reads a letter left in his desk by George W. Bush, a White House tradition welcoming the new President. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Obama tours the grounds of his new home for the next 8 years. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Barack Obama meets with senior advisors in his third week as president.

Photo Credit: The White House

President Obama settles in for his first flight aboard Air Force One. 

Photo Credit: The White House

The 44th President of the United States gives his first State of the Union address on February 24, 2009. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Mr. & Mrs. Obama walk hand in hand towards the helicopter that will take them on their first trip to Camp David. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Michelle Obama shakes hands with Queen Elizabeth at the Buckingham palace during their trip for the G20 summit.

Photo Credit: The White House

POTUS shows some love for his troops while visiting Camp Victory in Iraq on April 7, 2009. 

Photo Credit: The White House

The Obamas share a laugh while eating a snack after an event. 

Photo Credit: The White House 

Obama and Biden take in some fresh air with some golf on the White House green.

Photo Credit: The White House

President Obama explores the Pyramids of Giza during a trip to Egypt on June 4, 2009. 

Photo Credit: The White House

POTUS walks through his first G8 Summit in Italy. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Barack Obama takes in the beauty of the Grand Canyon.

Photo Credit: The White House

President Obama enjoys himself during an interview with David Letterman on Sept 21, 2009. 

Photo Credit: The White House

The Obama's welcome children to enjoy Halloween fun at the White House. 

Photo Credit: The White House

President Obama and the First Lady take their first portrait in front of the official White House Christmas tree. 

Obama sits in his personalized chair during a meeting. 

Photo Credit: The White House

The Obama's bust a move during the Governors' Ball. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Obama takes a moment to catch up on some important documents while on the go. 

Photo credit: The White House

The President takes calls at all hours leading up to the vote on healthcare reform.

Photo credit: The White House

Obama and Biden applaud the passing of the Affordable Care Act.

Photo Credit: The White House

White House Photographer Pete Souza had this to say about capturing this photo: "The sun was setting as the Presidential motorcade arrived back at Miami International Airport. I ran to get in front of Air Force One so I could use the beautiful sky as the background when the President boarded the plane."

Photo Credit: The White House

The Obamas lip-sync to a group of a cappella singers during a holiday visit. 

Photo Credit: The White House

A rare moment in the Situation Room of the White House.

Photo Credit: The White House

The President greets soldiers after a surprise all night flight to Afghanistan. 

Photo Credit: The White House

The Obama family admires Rio's infamous Christ the Redeemer statue while In Brazil on March 20, 2011. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Barack Obama approaches the Marine One helicopter. 

Photo Credit: The White House

President Obama watches the screen like a hawk during the real time mission to capture Osama bin Laden.

Photo Credit: The White House

The White House photographer Pete Souza writes "The President was ready to announce the news about the mission against Osama bin Laden and was putting the finishing touches on his statement in the Outer Oval Office. As he did so, the networks broke in with bulletins confirming that bin Laden had been killed and a photograph of him appeared on the television screen in the background near the Vice President and Press Secretary Jay Carney."

Photo Credit: The White House

Souza says "One of the most memorable moments of the year was when the President hugged Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as he walked onto the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol to deliver his annual State of the Union address."

Photo Credit: The White House

Pete Souza reveals an interesting fact about this photo: "The President hugs the First Lady after she had introduced him at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa. The campaign tweeted a similar photo from the campaign photographer on election night and a lot of people thought it was taken on election day."

Photo Credit: The White House

Basketball fans cheer for the Obamas as they kiss for the kiss cam. 

Photo Credit: The White House

President Obama serenades Michelle on her birthday. 

Photo Credit: Pete Souza

President Obama sits for a 3D portrait at the Smithsonian.

Photo Credit: The White House

President Obama takes a detour after the NATO summit to visit Stonehenge. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Barack Obama can't keep a straight face while recording a Holiday video at the White House. 

Photo Credit: The White House

Mr. President speaks at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery civil-rights marches.

Photo Credit: The White House

President Barack Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba shake hands during the Summit of the Americas at the Atlapa Convention Center in Panama City, Panama on  April 11, 2015.

Photo Credit: The White House

U.S. President Barack Obama collects the folio holding the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 after signing it into law in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, November 2, 2015.

Phto credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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But both Balcerzak and Politico suggest that there has been a rise in shadow lobbying – exerting influence while skirting the Lobbyists Disclosure Act. Trump promised to close loopholes in the act, but that would require legislation. However, his EO did broaden the definition of lobbying to includes "preparing and strategizing for contacts that other people make, so it goes further than only restricting registered lobbyists," Politico said.

More from Fiscal Times: Loopholes in U.S. Lobbying Laws Undercut Reforms, Two Watchdog Groups Argue

One factor that could loom large as industries and various other groups with an agenda consider how much money to devote to lobbying is the uncertainty about what lies ahead in a Trump Administration. As Thomas Susman, director of governmental affairs at the American Bar Association, told OpenSecrets, "That [uncertainty] leads to interests wanting to get their perspective out there."

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