JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – While Missouri lawmakers look to bring ethics reform to the statehouse, lobbyists are working to figure out what the new changes could mean and how to best serve their clients.
Regardless of the ongoing battle inside the Capitol over these reforms, one lobbying firm continues to push forward, representing a variety of clients on a number of equally diverse issues.
That firm is Catalyst.
Started by Danny Pfeifer, the firm has thrived in its now-10-year span here in Missouri.
The group specializes in a variety of services, including multi-state legislative initiatives, corporate strategy, and grassroots campaigns.
Pfeifer first served as a key staff member in the U.S. Senate office of then-Senator Jim Talent and later on his 2006 re-election campaign. While that campaign was not successful, it opened a new door for Pfeifer.
Pfeifer began Catalyst in 2007, taking on one of Missouri’s largest businesses, Emerson Electric, as his first client. After gaining new experience and a number of recommendations from a powerful and growing list of contacts, Pfeifer began expanding Catalyst’s practice.
Pfeifer said that with the creation of Catalyst, he wanted to establish a firm that could adapt to the growing number of changes in the legislative, political and regulatory environments, leaving behind 20th-century strategies and looking for ways to grow.
“When I founded Catalyst ten years ago, the first-generation iPhone had not been released, Catalyst clients like Uber, DraftKings, FanDuel and Live Nation had yet to be founded and Tesla’s first model had not rolled off of the assembly line,” Pfeifer said. “Our business was built around the new economy, including building the right team and company culture to help out clients achieve their goals.”
Soon after Catalyst was founded, Greg Porter joined the team, followed by Alex Eaton and Becky Lohmann. Both Porter and Eaton share ties with Pfeifer, as former Sen. Talent alum. Michael Steelman joined the team last month.
“We set out to be the disruptive government relations firm that represented the disruptors, knowing we would be competing with more established firms representing traditional businesses that were facing new competition. Our firm has grown and flourished under that model.”One of the ways they’ve managed to do that is by developing strong digital strategies and utilizing social media as an asset.
“We engage on social media in a big way, and that matters,” Lohmann said. “It’s a quick way for constituents to engage their legislators, and that’s definitely a focus area for us.”
Between the five, Catalyst looks to continue pushing the mold of lobbyist strategies. The high-energy team boasts a number of Fortune 500 clients, leading several efforts to pass and defeat legislation in state legislatures across the nation.
The firm doesn’t shy away from national clients, but, rather, embraces them. Names like Uber, Tesla, Kansas City Power & Light, the ACLU, and DraftKings and FanDuel have leveraged Catalyst skills to represent their interests in the Capitol.
“I think people like working with Catalyst because we work hard, and we play hard,” Lohmann said. “We have a ton of fun in the building, and the energy Alex, Greg, Danny and Michael bring is always high-energy. It’s always fun.”
Some firms might be leery about taking on clients they know have a hard fight ahead of them, but once again, Catalyst just powers forward. In fact, these same issues have oftentimes turned into major wins.
In 2016, the Catalyst led the charge for daily fantasy sports websites like FanDuel and DraftKings, helping to push legislation through the General Assembly and onto the governor’s desk. Gov. Jay Nixon signed the bill on June 10.
Now, the Catalyst faces a similar fight, this time in the regulatory battle over ridesharing in Missouri. Catalyst represents the ridesharing giant Uber in the matter.
Lohmann says their attitude and drive to win makes clients choose their firm.
“We’re always pushing the ball forward but at the same time, we enjoy spending time with each other and working together,” Lohmann said. “I think our clients enjoy that sort of fierce passion.”
But more than that, they truly operate as a team. Throughout the day, the team is constantly talking to each other, constantly connected and focused on the task at hand.
“We have one of the best teams in the Capitol and have purposely built the firm with an eye towards the future,” Pfeifer said.
“We balance each other out really well, personality-wise, and everyone has their own special skill-set. Everyone jumps in to help both our clients and each other,” Lohmann said. “Danny has been doing this for 10 years this month, but he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and do what needs to be done to accomplish things for our clients. At the end of the day, that really encourages everyone.”
So what can we expect from Catalyst in the future?
“Ten years from now I would like to look back and report that among Catalyst clients are a list of leading-edge companies that did not exist in 2017,” Pfeifer said.
FEATURED PHOTO/FACEBOOK – BECKY LOHMANN: Porter, Lohmann, Pfeifer, Steelman, Eaton
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.