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Blog Post | April 16, 2024

Meet RealPage’s Revolving-Door Lobbyists

Anti-MonopolyCongressional OversightConsumer ProtectionDepartment of JusticeFTCHousingRevolving Door
Meet RealPage’s Revolving-Door Lobbyists

The scandal-plagued software company has hired a trio of Capitol Hill insiders to fend off regulatory scrutiny from Congress.

As RealPage faces a legal firestorm over its algorithmic rent-gouging YieldStar software, the embattled tech company has hired three revolving-door lobbyists to ward off a regulatory crackdown from Congress. 

In the wake of the DC Attorney General and tenants suing RealPage for allegedly orchestrating rent price-fixing across the country, RealPage hired Casey Higgins and Ed Pagano of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in January to lobby Congress on “housing and algorithm” issues. Both lobbyists are Hill insiders: Higgins worked for seven years for former House Speaker Paul Ryan, while Pagano spent over twenty years as a top aide to former Vermont Senator Pat Leahy and as President Obama’s Senate liaison. Akin Gump is K Street’s second-largest lobbying shop, representing corporate giants like Amazon and AT&T. 

Senate lobbying filings also reveal that RealPage hired a third lobbyist, Bryan Cunningham of Polaris Government Relations, to “provide advice and counsel on algorithmic pricing issues.” Cunningham is the co-founder of Polaris, a consulting and lobbying shop that also represents real estate industry firms CoStar and Related, and private equity firm Carlyle Group. Prior to becoming a lobbyist, Cunningham was a legislative staffer for former Senators Judd Gregg and John Ensign. 

RealPage’s hiring of these longtime Washington insiders marks the company’s first-ever foray into federal lobbying. Their hiring comes as Senate Democrats – including Amy Klobuchar, the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights – have urged the Department of Justice to investigate RealPage for antitrust violations and cosponsored a bill that would bar landlords from using algorithmic rent-gouging software. 

The specifics of RealPage’s lobbying activities are likely to be revealed when Q1-2024 lobbying reports are released later this month. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about RealPage’s new revolving-door lobbyists:

Casey Higgins and Ed Pagano, Akin Gump 

  • Casey Higgins and Ed Pagano are both long-time Washington insiders, with extensive experience in the legislative and executive branches.
    • Casey Higgins, a Republican, worked for former House Speaker Paul Ryan from 2011 to 2019, including as the Assistant to the Speaker for Policy and Trade Council. She is also a former law clerk for the Republican National Lawyers Association and FEC Commissioner (later Trump White House Counsel) Don McGahn. She joined Akin Gump immediately after leaving the House in 2019. 
    • Ed Pagano spent over two decades working in the highest echelons of Democratic politics before coming to Akin Gump in 2014. From 1993 to 2012, he served in various roles for former Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), including as Leahy’s chief of staff and senior counsel on the Judiciary Committee. From 2012 to 2014, Pagano served as President Obama’s Deputy Assistant for Legislative Affairs, garnering a warm reception from Senate Democrats as he coordinated the administration’s second-term legislative priorities.
  • In addition to RealPage, Higgins and Pagano both lobby for tech monopoly Amazon, telecom giant AT&T, gig company DoorDash, credit score company FICO, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
    • Higgins also lobbies for gig company Lyft, Big Business trade group Business Roundtable, asset management giant BlackRock, and the Koch-funded advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. 
    • Pagano also lobbies for Anheuser-Busch InBev, financial software firm Intuit, private equity firm KKR, tobacco giant Philip Morris International, and the Paul Singer-led hedge fund Elliott Management. 

Bryan Cunningham, Polaris Government Relations

  • Bryan Cunningham is the co-founder and principal of Polaris Consulting, LLC (Polaris Government Relations). Before co-founding the firm 2009, Cunningham was an in-house lobbyist at Cisco Systems and legislative aide to former Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH) and John Ensign (R-NV) and former Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R, NJ-02). 
  • Cunningham’s firm bio page boasts of his work helping corporate clients navigate DOJ Antitrust Division and FTC reviews during anticompetitive mergers, including the Verizon-SpectrumCo cable companies merger (2012), AT&T-DirecTV merger (2015), Charter-Time Warner merger (2016), and the failed Comcast-Time Warner and AT&T-T-Mobile mergers.
    • In 2017, the Trump DOJ approved RealPage’s acquisition of its biggest competitor Rainmaker Group, which made rent-setting software called Lease Rent Options. The $300 million acquisition allowed RealPage to double the number of apartments it was pricing, from 1.5 to 3 million units.
  • In addition to RealPage, Cunningham also lobbies for real estate data firm CoStar group. In a striking parallel to RealPage, CoStar Group was hit with a consumer class action lawsuit in 2024 accusing it and several luxury hotel operators (including HIlton, Hyatt, and Marriott) of conspiring to keep room rental prices artificially high. 
  • Cunningham’s non-housing clients include health insurance company Cigna, tobacco giant Altria (previously known as Philip Morris Companies, Inc.), JetBlue Airways, and telecom companies AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon.

IMAGE: “K Street NW street sign” by Ben Schumin [Wikimedia Commons, 2/12/2011]

Anti-MonopolyCongressional OversightConsumer ProtectionDepartment of JusticeFTCHousingRevolving Door

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