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ICYMI- Who’s lobbying Congress? U.S. Chamber, Tech Companies, Former Hill Staffers

Dallas Business Journal
Who’s lobbying Congress? U.S. Chamber, tech companies, former Hill staffers
Jan 22, 2014, 12:40pm CST

The final lobbying expenditures reports for 2013 have been filed, so it’s time to look at some of the highlights for Washington, D.C.’s multibillion-dollar influence industry:

U.S. Chamber spends less, but it’s still No. 1

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to spend more on lobbying than any other organization in Washington, D.C., but its spending fell to $52 million in 2013, thanks to gridlock on Capitol Hill.

That’s way below 2012’s lobbying total of $136 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The chamber, however, counts “voter education” as a lobbying expense, so its lobbying expenditures spike during election years.

What’s most noteworthy about 2013’s number is that it’s the chamber’s lowest lobbying level for a non-election year since 2005. Why spend a lot of money when Congress isn’t enacting much legislation?

The chamber’s spending picked up in the fourth quarter, when it spent $16.5 million. This money including ads for pro-business candidates in 2014 elections. That spending will increase this year, as will its push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Lobbyists for immigration reform will focus on the House this year, since the Senate passed a bill last year. This Friday, the chamber is co-sponsoring an event at the National Press Club to make the economic case for passing immigration reform. Featured speakers include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, founder of Republicans for Immigration Reform.

The National Association Realtors ranked No. 2 in lobbying expenditures for 2013, at $26 million. Rounding out the top 10 were Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the American Hospital Association, ComcastGeneral Electric, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Medical Association, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and Northrop Grumman.

NSA revelations help boost tech lobbying

Many technology companies increased their lobbying spending in 2013, and you can thankEdward Snowden for that.

Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency’s mining of telephone and Internet usage data made government surveillance a major issue for the technology industry. Facebook, Microsoft and Apple increased their federal lobbying expenditures last year, The Hill reports. Google, the biggest spender among tech companies, trimmed its spending slightly.

Newcomers to the lobbying world included the Internet Association, Twitter and Yelp.

Besides government surveillance, the tech industry’s top issues were immigration reform, patent reform and cybersecurity.

Work on the Hill, then make a killing

The revolving door is turning faster than ever: 44 percent of the hired guns who lobby Congress and federal agencies have previous government experience, up from 18 percent in 1998.

That’s according to the Sunlight Foundation, which found that contract lobbyists generated $1.32 billion in revenue in 2012, up from $703 million in 1998. All of this increase in revenue can be attributed to active contract lobbyists with prior government experience, the foundation reports.

The number of active contract lobbyists increased from 3,109 in 1998 to 4,455 in 2012, peaking at 5,103 in 2009. But the number of lobbyists with prior government experience nearly quadrupled from 482 in 1998 to 1,846 in 2012.

Clients are willing to pay more for lobbyists with government experience, according to the foundation — the median annual revenue associated with revolving door lobbyists was $300,000, compared with $112,500 for lobbyists without government experience.

This isn’t surprising, especially when it comes to lobbyists with Capitol Hill experience, the foundation notes. Their personal relationships open doors on the Hill, plus they know congressional procedure as well as policy.