2012 hasn't been the best year for K Street, but it's too soon to call it a bust.
A divided government and the demands of campaigning have kept Congress in low gear, depressing revenue at lobby shops and leaving trade associations and grassroots groups in planning mode.
But Election Day is nearly here, bringing with it a lame-duck session that many in Washington believe will be among the busiest and most consequential of modern times.
Washington's corps of lobbyists and advocates will be in the thick of the post-election action, and the best of them - represented here on The Hill's annual Top Lobbyists list - will be working with gusto to shape the policy choices made on taxes, spending and the budget.
The advocates who have earned a Top Lobbyists slot have different roles: some are guns for hire on K Street, while others lead grassroots groups that draw influence from their members.
But not everyone on the list is a lobbyist - at least, not in the technical sense of the term.
Since The Hill began publishing its Top Lobbyists list more than a decade ago, the word "lobbyist" has become a pejorative that many strive to avoid. President Obama, meanwhile, has restricted the roles that registered lobbyists can have in the government.
That has led some advocates to limit their interactions with lawmakers and the administration to avoid having to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and receive what some have dubbed the "Scarlet L."
The Hill uses the term "lobbyist" broadly here to encompass the people who are working day in and day out to influence federal policy. Not all of the honorees are registered to lobby - but all are names to know.
Gephardt Government Affairs was founded in 2007 by former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and specializes in helping clients develop political and public policy strategies. Learn more about our team at: www.gephardtDC.com .
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