Planned Parenthood slashed its spending on lobbying in the first quarter of 2012 by 88 percent, disclosure records show.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its advocacy arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, spent a total of roughly $99,000 in the first quarter on lobbying activities. That’s a huge drop from the fourth quarter of last year, when the two groups spent a combined $839,000 on lobbying.
Planned Parenthood said the drop in lobbying spending simply reflects a lack of federal activity on issues affecting the organization.
“The drop in lobbying expenditures is quite straight forward — it was higher last year because of increased intensity with a new Congress and state ballot initiative work, and it’s lower so far this year because much of the focus has been on state legislatures and is undertaken by our local affiliates,” Planned Parenthood spokesperson Eric Ferrero said in a statement.
“As the nation’s leading provider of reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood is focused on protecting women’s access to health care at both the state and federal levels,” Ferrero said.
The decrease in lobbying came at a time when Planned Parenthood was embroiled in a politically charged controversy with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, the country’s leading breast cancer charity.
Komen announced earlier this year it was cutting off grant funding for breast-cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics. The charity had been under pressure from conservative activists to cut ties with Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions, but Komen cited a congressional investigation of the organization in explaining the decision.
After coming under pressure from the left and Democrats on Capitol Hill, Komen reversed course and said it would continue to work with Planned Parenthood and allow them to apply for grant money.
While the Komen battle raged, Planned Parenthood focused its lobbying efforts on on appropriations legislation and issues related to abortion rights. One bill Planned Parenthood lobbied on would help developing countries reduce the incidence of unsafe abortions and provide care for women who received dangerous procedures, records show.
The organization was also paying close attention to healthcare legislation. One bill the organization lobbied on aimed "to repeal mandatory funding provided to states in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to establish American health benefit exchanges," records show.
The dust-up with Komen was not the first time Planned Parenthood’s funding has been threatened. The federal money provided to the organization has been repeatedly targeted in budget battles on Capitol Hill.
In March of 2011, House Republicans tried to attach a measure banning taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood to legislation funding the government. Democratic leaders refused to accept the provision, and it was scrapped in the final spending deal in favor of a vote in both chambers on defunding Planned Parenthood.
The issue hasn’t gone away since then. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney last month said he would support ending Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, a position that Democrats have attacked.
Planned Parenthood is not the only prominent health group to pull back its lobbying operations over the last year.
AARP, a membership association for individuals 50 and older, dropped its expenditures by 61 percent to almost $2 million this quarter. The insurance giant Humana spent $180,000, nearly 35 percent less than Humana’s lobbying spending in the first quarter of 2011.
Other prominent players in healthcare policy on Capitol Hill continued to increase their lobbying in 2012.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) increased its spending nearly 17 percent to $5.3 million, and the American Medical Association bolstered its numbers more than 9 percent to $4.7 million.
— This story was updated on May 1 with comment from Planned Parenthood.