News that the ownership of Rockstar Energy Drink had recently hired a high-profile lobbying firm broke yesterday in the form of a report published by the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit research firm that produces investigative journalism.
The story, written by veteran political reporter Dave Levinthal, indicated that Rockstar is the third of the “big three” independent energy drink brands to retain the services of lobbyists, along with Monster and Red Bull.
According to Levinthal, an expert on lobbying and lobbyists, the flock of nine skilled operatives from the top-tier Podesta Group represents a move that will take an “all-of-the-above” approach to trying to work the levers of power in D.C. at a time when politicians – particularly Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have been holding regulatory agencies’ feet to the fire when it comes to investigating their concerns about the beverages.
“There’s going to be some offense, and some defense, particularly when you’re dealing with an agency or legislative body that could significantly tighten the rules and regulations that will affect your industry,” Levinthal told BevNET.
“They’re going to be almost certainly working at the agency level – dealing with the FDA – as well as the individual members of congress who believe they can be helpful to them on their side of the coin,” Levinthal added, but at the same time the lobbyists may “try to work with the guys who are very fire and brimstone about this.”
The reach of the lobbying group includes a near-direct link to one of the critics of the energy drink business: Israel Klein is a former press secretary for Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who has been pushing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look at the way energy drink companies market their products.
The fact that business rivals Monster and Rockstar have hired the same firm, Podesta Group, and that Red Bull also added Heather Podesta + Partners – run by Podesta Group founder Tony Podesta’s estranged wife, Heather Podesta – indicates both the seriousness with which the companies are taking the regulatory issue, as well as the strange bedfellows that politics can make, according to Levinthal.
“All of these drink companies may be competitors in the marketplace,” he said, but “they’re definitely friends and compatriots in terms of the long arm of government regulation.”