Analysis: More than 6,000 lobbyists have worked on taxes in 2017

Analysis: More than 6,000 lobbyists have worked on taxes in 2017
© Greg Nash

Tax reform is taking over Washington, so much so that more than half of all registered lobbyists have disclosed working on the issue, according to an analysis from Public Citizen, a government watchdog group.

There are just under 11,000 active lobbyists in the nation's capital, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), and more than half of them — 6,243 — have reported working on taxes this year, according to the report, which relies on CRP data.

Spread out over Capitol Hill, that means there are more than 11 lobbyists working on taxes for every member of Congress.

“The mind-boggling number of lobbyists corporate America has hired to reshape the tax code is of almost biblical proportions and undoubtedly cost a fortune,” said Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen’s vice president of legislative affairs. “But the rate reductions and other favors in the legislation will exact a far greater price on regular Americans.”

One of the central issues for the tax push is reducing corporate tax rates, long a top Republican goal. The proposals floating in the House and Senate would cut the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

The White House has said it would accept no more than a 20 percent rate.

Thirty-one of the thousands of lobbyists working on tax reform have ties to President Trump or Vice President Pence, Public Citizen found.

Many of those lobbyists worked on the Trump campaign or transition team, including David Urban, of American Continental Group; Altria’s Cindy Hayden; Barry Bennett, of Avenue Strategies, which employs several Trump-connected lobbyists; Bryan Lanza, of Mercury; and Holland & Knight’s Scott Mason.

The report found that 20 corporations and trade associations have each hired at least 50 lobbyists to work on taxes, both through their in-house team and outside firms. Among them are two highly influential business groups: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has 100 lobbyists working on taxes, and the Business Roundtable, which has 51.

Companies and trade groups within the pharmaceutical and insurance industries each have 600 or more lobbyists working on taxes.

“With their enormous complexity and high-stakes, tax issues are the buffet that keeps Washington’s swamp creatures fed,” Public Citizen said in the conclusion of its report. “

"But the success of the nation’s largest corporations and wealthiest interests in shaping the current tax legislation to suit their interests shows that bankrolling the lobbyists’ unending feast is a small bill to pay in the big scheme of things — because it is a very big scheme, indeed.”