Big guns spent $709 million in 2013

Greg Nash

The big guns of the lobbying world spent $709.9 million trying to influence Washington last year, a slight drop from 2012, records show.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows nearly a quarter of the $3.21 billion that was spent lobbying Congress and the administration last year came from an elite group of 50 trade associations, companies and a nonprofit founded by George Soros.

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The top spenders included heavyweights, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Northrop Grumman, the American Medical Association and the National Association of Broadcasters, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The list of the top 50 includes some surprises.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) rocketed into the top 50 by more than quadrupling its lobbying spending from $3.35 million in 2012 to $14.3 million last year.

The trade association, which has been fighting hard against label requirements for genetically modified food, hired four new lobby firms last year, including the influential Democratic lobby shop Elmendorf | Ryan and the Republican powerhouse firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock.

“With a broadening agenda at all levels of government, we are measuring the needed resources against these engagements to ensure we are providing policy makers with the information they need to make informed policy decisions,” a GMA spokesman said in an email.

Another fast riser was DuPont Co., which spent more than $10.2 million on lobbying in 2013 after only spending $4.9 million in 2012.  A change in the company’s reporting method helps explain the jump, as the company used the Internal Revenue Service’s method to calculate its spending and included state-level advocacy from the previous year.

While DuPont’s lobbying forms do not break down spending by topic, the company reported activity on broad array of issues, from corporate tax reform to toxic chemical regulations to immigration. The company also lobbied on trade deals and the renewable fuel standard.

Another upstart among the top 50 was the Soros-backed Open Society Policy Center (OSPC), which spent $11 million last year, an almost $8 million increase over 2012. 

The nonprofit group reported working on issues related to the budget for the Defense and State departments, and many of President Obama’s nominations for federal posts.

Forms filed with the Senate also indicate the Open Society Policy Center was active in lobbying on export control reform, “including restoring human rights and counterterrorism screening to arms export licensing decisions, and transparency of export licenses,” the disclosure reports say.

Though DuPont and the OSPC each have one firm on retainer, they mostly operate through their in-house lobbying teams. 

CVS/Caremark increased its lobbying efforts by about 30 percent in 2013, with a sharp uptick in the final quarter of the year. 

The pharmacy came under fire in the fall for requiring customers to sign a waiver of their health records privacy in order to enroll in a rewards program, though none of the forms indicate any lobbying on issues related to privacy.

More than half of the top 50 lobby spenders decreased their lobbying expenditures in 2013.

Google’s lobbying spending dropped about 13 percent, from $18.2 million in 2012 to $15.8 million last year.

The tech giant increased its spending dramatically from 2011 to 2012, as it came under antitrust scrutiny and fought against anti-piracy legislation.

Google’s lobbying dipped slightly through the first half of 2013 but increased after the revelations about National Security Agency surveillance. It also lobbied on the patent legislation that passed the House in December.

Lobbying by the Chamber of Commerce dropped by almost half from 2012, mostly because of how the group reports its spending.

The Chamber uses the IRS method to calculate its lobbying spending, which requires the inclusion of grassroots and voter education spending.

So during 2012, an election year, the group reported spending $136.3 million, while it only spent about $74.5 million last year.

The $74.5 million figure also includes the Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center, its Institute for Legal Reform and the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, which account for more than $21.7 million of the Chamber’s total.

Organization20122013% Change
US Chamber of Commerce$136,300,000$74,470,000-45%
National Association of Realtors$41,464,580$38,584,580-7%
Blue Cross/Blue Shield$22,569,532$22,510,2800%
Northrop Grumman$17,540,000$20,590,00017%
National Cable & Telecommunications Association$18,890,000$19,870,0005%
American Hospital Association$19,251,200$19,143,813-1%
Comcast Corp.$14,750,000$18,810,00028%
American Medical Association$16,505,000$18,160,00010%
General Electric$21,200,000$18,060,000-15%
PhRMA$18,530,000$17,882,500-3%
AT&T Inc.$17,460,000$15,935,000-9%
Google Inc.$18,220,000$15,800,000-13%
Boeing Co.$15,640,000$15,230,000-3%
National Association of Broadcasters$14,510,000$14,450,0000%
Lockheed Martin$15,347,350$14,436,226-6%
Grocery Manufacturers Association$3,350,000$14,300,000327%
United Technologies$14,454,750$13,900,373-4%
Verizon Communications$15,220,000$13,703,000-10%
Exxon Mobil$12,970,000$13,420,0003%
CVS/Caremark Corp.$10,015,000$13,128,50231%
Southern Co.$15,580,000$12,850,000-18%
Business Roundtable$13,890,000$12,390,000-11%
American Chemistry Council$9,070,000$12,250,00035%
FedEx Corp.$11,874,380$12,200,9123%
Cellular Telecom & Internet Association$12,350,000$11,540,000-7%
General Dynamics$10,904,482$11,066,9741%
Open Society Policy Center$3,250,000$11,030,000239%
Dow Chemical$11,570,000$10,650,000-8%
Chevron Corp.$9,550,000$10, 530,00010%
Microsoft Corp.$8,086,000$10,490,00030%
Koch Industries$10,550,000$10,430,000-1%
America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)$9,340,000$10,420,00012%
DuPont Co.$4,877,684$10,241,668110%
Altria Group$10,560,000$10,190,000-4%
Pfizer Inc.$10,450,000$9,980,000-4%
Edison Electric Institute$13,540,790$9,950,000-27%
Eli Lilly & Co.$11,096,000$9,870,000-11%
AARP$9,900,000$9,610,000-3%
American Petroleum Institute$7,310,000$9,300,00027%
Amgen Inc$9,310,000$9,120,000-2%
Royal Dutch Shell$14,480,000$9,070,000-37%
General Motors$7,160,000$8,820,00023%
American Bankers Association$8,970,000$8,775,000-2%
Philip Morris International$9,830,000$8,300,000-16%
Time Warner Cable$7,770,000$8,290,0007%
Occidental Petroleum$6,719,195$8,271,32623%
BP$8,920,000$8,270,000-7%
Biotechnology Industry Organization$7,540,000$7,970,0006%
Airlines for America$6,370,000$7,920,00024%
Berkshire Hathaway$7,925,464$7,714,000-3%

Source: Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org