BOSTON – After years of Beacon Hill stalwart ML Strategies hauling in more in lobbying fees than any other firm, Smith Costello & Crawford topped the field in the first half of 2019, according to a review of state records.
Smith Costello & Crawford did almost $2 million in business between Jan. 1 and June 30, about $70,000 more than ML Strategies earned in compensation, disclosure forms processed by Secretary of State William Galvin's office show. Galvin oversees the state lobbying division.
The latest figures reflect some movement at the upper echelons of Massachusetts lobbying firms. ML Strategies brought in more than any other group every year between 2016 and 2018, according to a ranking produced by CommonWealth Magazine, setting a record last year with $5.1 million in total fees.
Over that span, Smith Costello & Crawford has grown in prominence. In 2016, the firm earned about $1.02 million from clients, CommonWealth reported — just more than half of what it has made in the first half of 2019 in twice the amount of time.
By 2018, Smith Costello & Crawford ranked second among Massachusetts lobbying firms with about $3.2 million collected, but still sat almost $2 million behind ML Strategies.
On its disclosure for the first half of 2019, Smith Costello & Crawford listed dozens of clients across a wide range of industries, from biotechnology to wind power to marijuana. The firm's largest fee in the first six months of 2019 was $216,000, charged to the Mass Gaming and Entertainment group that continues to push to open a resort casino in southeastern Massachusetts.
No other client cracked six figures in payments to Smith Costello & Crawford this year. The second-highest fee was $75,000, from hydroelectric and solar energy producer FirstLight Power Resources. Smith Costello & Crawford also earned $60,000 each from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Recovery Centers of America and Shields Health Care Group.
Smith Costello & Crawford paid seven different lobbyists a total of $1.02 million in the first half of the year, according to the data.
ML Strategies, meanwhile, listed 12 lobbyists paid a total of $945,000 over that timeframe. Its largest client in the first half of the year was Wynn MA LLC, the Massachusetts branch of the casino company that now operates Encore Boston Harbor, which paid $200,000.
The firm also collected $160,000 from Equinor Wind U.S. LLC, $78,000 from DIV Acquisition III LLC and $70,000 from Veolia Energy North America Holdings Inc.
Lobbying entities are required to disclose how much they received from clients and how much they compensated individuals in forms filed with the Secretary of State.
Smith Costello & Crawford and ML Strategies remained far above the rest of the state's lobbyists during the first half of 2019. The third-highest-paid firm, O'Neill and Partners LLC, brought in about $1.42 million, almost half a million dollars less than ML did.
Four other firms earned $1 million or more in compensation between January and June: Kearney Donvan & McGee P.C. brought in about $1.4 million, Tremont Strategies Group earned $1.3 million, Bay State Strategies Group LLC charged $1.18 million, and Rasky Partners hauled in $1.13 million, according to disclosure forms.
Murphy Donoghue Partners missed entering that tier by a total of four cents, collecting $999,999.96 in total compensation through the first half of the year.
The disclosure reports are the first filed through a new online portal with Galvin's office, a system that created some brief difficulties for lobbyists when it was launched this year.