WASHINGTON — A sweeping executive order by President Joe Biden aimed at thwarting corporate consolidation and promoting competition in the economy has already spurred business in one sector: K Street.
Lobbyists have begun to plot campaigns to influence multiple federal departments and agencies as the executive branch embarks on a major, monthslong effort to write or rewrite regulations that could affect businesses’ bottom lines.
The executive order hits K Street clients in agriculture, technology, health care, financial services and even alcoholic beverages. It directs agencies to grapple with increased consolidation in such industries as insurance, health care and agriculture. Biden, for example, has ordered federal agencies to examine hospital consolidation and the costs of drugs and hearing aids.
The administration also wants to make it harder for employers to collude to suppress wages by limiting noncompete clauses and taking other steps.
“If you think this executive order won’t impact you, you’re probably not paying attention,” said lobbyist Francine Friedman of the firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. “Everyone should be looking at how things could be good for them or bad for them.” She added that companies and industries will be on alert for ripple effects — for example, new rules in the agriculture sector may then affect the restaurant industry.
The order sets off a process at a dozen federal agencies, which are expected to begin new rule-makings and reviews, examining how consolidation affects consumers and the prices they pay.
Some of K Street’s biggest spending groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, say the administration’s new effort on competition has become a top priority.
Neil Bradley, the chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer, said his group would focus on how individual agencies carry out the directives and on the bigger picture for business overall.
Chamber: Don’t stifle innovation
“There’s also the underlying premise that the entire executive order is based on, and that’s a premise where we think the administration is just wrong,” Bradley said. “The chamber will also be advocating to point out the competition that absolutely does exist and the benefits of that competition.”