The top 10 lobbying victories of this year

The influence industry scored several hard-fought victories in a year in which lawmakers were more focused on campaigning than legislating.

Though the winners and losers in the lobbying battle over the “fiscal cliff” are not yet known, a number of companies, trade groups and lobbyists already have a signature triumph to call their own in 2012.

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The tech industry beat back legislation that would have put a tighter leash on the Internet; business groups outmuscled Tea Party activists to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank; and Wall Street managed to water down a provision in fast-moving ethics legislation.

Here’s a look at the top 10 lobbying victories of 2012, along with the groups and companies — and at least one persistent investment fund manager — who won them.


1. Google, Public Knowledge, Yahoo

Legislation backed by business and Hollywood rarely goes down in flames, which makes the torching of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) all the more remarkable.

The defeat of the legislation revealed the increasing power of the tech lobby, which stirred up grassroots opposition against the bills with a dramatic online blackout.

Silicon Valley giants like Google and Yahoo — assisted by groups such as Public Knowledge — outmaneuvered more established players on Capitol Hill, leading congressional leaders to shelve both bills indefinitely.

Now lawmakers are wary of backing bills aimed at combating online piracy for fear of angering the activists who are fighting to keep Washington’s hands off the Internet.


2. Boeing, Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce

Business groups and large multinational companies like Boeing overcame Tea Party-fueled resistance to win reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im).

Conservative activists targeted Ex-Im as a spigot for corporate welfare and urged Congress to let the bank’s charter expire. 

But the bank’s supporters, with backing from the White House, weathered delays in the Senate and secured approval for a multiyear authorization bill with an increased lending cap of $140 billion.


3. Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Wall Street

Congress couldn’t move fast enough to pass the STOCK Act after an attention-grabbing report from “60 Minutes” raised allegations of insider trading by lawmakers.

But despite broad bipartisan support, a provision that would have required political intelligence consultants to register as lobbyists was stripped from the final bill. Watchdog groups decried lawmakers’ decision to study the issue instead, arguing it’s high time that the network for inside political information be brought into the light. 

SIFMA raised concerns about the intel provision with lawmakers. Financial giants like Goldman Sachs and Charles Schwab also reported lobbying on the bill, along with several political intelligence firms new to K Street.


4. Coalition to Save Our GPS, Garmin, Trimble

GPS companies prevailed over one of the most experienced lobbying teams Washington has ever seen.

Former congressional leaders and ex-governors were hired in droves to lobby for LightSquared, which was seeking approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a high-speed wireless network. 

But the Coalition to Save Our GPS and its member companies such as Garmin and Trimble fought back, countering that the network that could interfere with their devices.

The FCC agreed with those warnings and rejected LightSquared’s application, putting the future of the company in doubt. 


5. 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club

An array of environmental groups won another round in their campaign to stop construction of the Keystone Pipeline.

This time it wasn’t the White House that was the target of their lobbying, but Congress. Republicans were determined to add a provision to the must-pass highway bill that would get the pipeline up and running.

Environmentalists sprang into action, collecting more than 800,000 signatures against the pipeline in 24 hours. The highway bill would pass with bipartisan support — but the Keystone provision was nowhere to be found.

Keystone critics, however, will face a bigger battle in 2013 as they push the White House to reject a permit for TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline. 


6. Credit Union National Association, National Association of Federal Credit Unions

Credit unions were able to notch a victory over community banks this year in opposing the extension of the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program. 

Created during the 2008 banking crisis and set to expire this year, the TAG program provides guarantees to certain non-interest-bearing bank accounts.

Credit unions lobbied hard against a standalone TAG extension, and demanded that it be paired with expanded lending capacity for credit unions. The failure to move a TAG bill through the Senate likely ends it chances this year, but credit union lobbyists are keeping their eyes peeled.


7. AFL-CIO, Consumer Federation of America, Public Citizen

Consumer and liberal groups were overjoyed in January when President Obama took their advice and recess-appointed a director to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The appointment of Richard Cordray — which is being challenged in court on the grounds that the Senate was not in recess — signaled a more aggressive stance from Obama in his reelection year.

In making the appointment, the president defied conservative activists and GOP leaders who warned him about overstepping his authority. Liberal activists won out in the end, though the action came too late for their earlier, preferred choice — Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).


8. Northrop Grumman

Few can say they have defeated the Pentagon, but Northrop Grumman is poised to do just that this year.

The defense contractor’s Global Hawk Block 30 drone was targeted for zeroing out under Defense Department orders. But three of the four defense committees restored funding to the Global Hawk program to keep the aircraft in the skies.

The final defense authorization and appropriations bills have not yet been completed, but if the Global Hawk lives it would be among the most impressive lobbying feats of the year, considering Washington’s focus on budget cutbacks and sequestration.


9. Bill Browder

Business groups lobbied all year for approval of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia. Capitol Hill finally came through in December, but not without passage of a human-rights measure that many protested, including the Kremlin.

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which was attached to the trade bill, came about due to the persistent shoe-leather work of Bill Browder, the head of London-based Hermitage Capital Management. The law is named after Browder’s lawyer, who died in Russian police custody after looking in to what happened to some of Browder’s holdings in the country.

Browder had K Street representation — Juleanna Glover of the Ashcroft Group — and was ever-present on Capitol Hill during the debate on PNTR. At first, the bill targeted all human-rights violators across the globe. But it ended up being limited to Russians accused of wrongdoing, including anyone accused of being involved in Magnitsky’s death, and will stop them from traveling to or doing business in the United States.


10. Campaign to Fix the Debt, Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson

Washington’s favorite odd couple and their motley band of CEOs would be higher on the list if the outcome of the fiscal-cliff fight were known.

Simpson, a former Wyoming GOP senator, and Bowles, once chief of staff in the Clinton White House, have kept “debt” and “deficit” on the lips of every Washington policymaker this year. Their Campaign to Fix the Debt culminates a two-year odyssey for the men, who were tasked with leading Obama’s deficit commission in 2010.

While a final debt deal has not yet emerged, Simpson and Bowles’s public campaign will likely have had a hand in shaping it.


Ben Geman, Jeremy Herb, Jennifer Martinez, Carlo Muñoz, Vicki Needham, Brendan Sasso, Peter Schroeder and Erik Wasson contributed to this report.