Chamber spent $50 million on lobbying amid push for immigration reform

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more than $50 million on lobbying last year as it pushed for action on immigration reform.

Typically the biggest K Street spender in Washington, the business group funneled about $52.7 million toward lobbying efforts in 2013, according to disclosure records. In the last quarter of the year, the group spent almost $16.5 million.

Some of that money went toward lobbying on immigration reform, which is a top legislative priority for the business community.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Chamber played an instrumental role in getting a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Senate last year by helping the “Gang of Eight” reach a deal with labor unions on temporary worker visas.

But the Senate bill stalled in the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is crafting principles that he says will guide a piecemeal legislative approach.

Business groups are pressuring Boehner to schedule floor time for legislation, arguing an overhaul of the immigration system is critical for U.S. competitiveness and for filling gaps in the workforce.

Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said earlier this month that the business group “will pull out all the stops” to see that immigration legislation makes it to President Obama’s desk by the end of the year.

"We're determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted," Dononhue said.

The business lobby is also planning a vigorous campaign to help business-friendly candidates in the midterm elections, and has vowed to protect some incumbent lawmakers from Tea Party challengers.

“In primaries and in the general election, we will support candidates who want to work within the legislative process to solve the nation’s problems and who understand that business is not the problem, business is a big part of the solution,” Donohue said during his annual State of American Business address.

The Chamber is likely to spend tens of millions of dollars on issue ads and other forms of campaign advocacy in 2014, money that will be reflected in the group’s quarterly lobbying totals.

Unlike most other business groups, the Chamber uses the IRS method to calculate its lobbying spending, which requires the inclusion of grassroots and voter education spending.

In 2012, the Chamber reported nearly $103.9 million in lobbying spending, nearly double the amount reported for 2013.

A Chamber spokeswoman said the group’s latest lobbying report included the start of a voter education campaign for the midterm elections.

“Our fourth-quarter lobbying numbers reflect the Chamber’s launch of its 2014 voter education campaign,” Blair Latoff Holmes said.

“The Chamber is aggressively engaging early in support of free enterprise candidates. Our efforts in the Alabama-01 special election and our TV ads in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Idaho were included in that figure. During the quarter we also continued to promote elements of the Chamber’s policy agenda, which will generate stronger, more robust economic growth and create jobs.”

The 63-page report demonstrates the Chamber’s vast reach across Washington, where it lobbies on nearly every major issue affecting business.

In the final months of 2013, the Chamber lobbied on the implementation of Dodd-Frank financial reform; defense and veterans affairs spending bills; the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; several pieces of cybersecurity legislation; EPA regulations to stem greenhouse gas emissions; and legislation and oversight over the National Labor Relations Board. 

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the business group’s legal affiliate, also reported spending less on lobbying. The institute spent almost $20.9 million for 2013, according to disclosure records. That’s a decline from the $31.6 million the institute spent in 2012.

Tuesday was the deadline for interest groups and lobby firms to file their final quarterly reports for 2013.