Business & Lobbying

Top 10 lobbying victories of 2016

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Lawmakers were often away from Washington in 2016, making legislative victories hard to come by.

The whirlwind presidential campaign that ended in the election of Donald Trump contributed to the dearth of activity in Congress, making lobbyists hustle during periods where policymakers were in town.

Despite the time crunch, several major pieces of legislation were enacted that had been in the works for years.

Here is a look back at 10 notable lobbying victories from 2016.


The 21st Century Cures Act

{mosads}Signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday, the bill speeds up drug and device regulatory approval, increases funding for the National Institutes of Health and approves money to help fight opioid addition, among other things.

The legislation also boosts funding for research and treatment for mental illnesses.

More than 400 separate interests lobbied on the bill, reflecting its broad scope and impact.

Critics say that the law could speed up the approval process in a way that could bring dangerous products to market.

Winners: Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America; AdvaMed; the Biotechnology Industry Organization; American Medical Association; American Hospital Association; some disease groups like the American Cancer Society; medical schools; and mental health and substance abuse advocates, such as Shatterproof.


Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

While JASTA was introduced for the first time in 2009, and re-introduced in every Congress since, it gained unstoppable momentum in mid-2016.

The law was pitched as a way for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, the country where 15 of the 19 hijackers were from. President Obama warned that the measure could have unintended consequences, but lawmakers overwhelmingly overturned his veto, defying pressure from Saudi Arabia and corporations with interests overseas.

Winners: The 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism.


Toxic Substances Control Act

After decades of trying, lawmakers succeeded in passing the first update since 1976 to a law that governs how toxic chemicals are regulated.

More than 230 companies and groups listed lobbying on the TSCA on federal disclosure documents since 2010. While some environmental groups think industry gained too much in the final version of the law, they are still eager for regulators to flex their new powers.

Fewer than 10 chemicals had been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 40 years before the TSCA was updated.

Winners: The American Chemistry Council; the National Association of Manufacturers; Environmental Defense Fund; the National Retail Federation; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of more than 450 groups, labor unions and individuals.


Labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms

A long-fought food fight over whether companies should be required to label products containing GMOs came to a head in 2016.

The final law passed by Congress gave the food, biotechnology, retail and farming industries a win and left some environmental and public interest groups disappointed.

The bill sets a national standard for the labeling process — and forbids states from creating their own — and gives companies flexibility with how they label packages. They can say in plain words that the product has been “produced with genetic engineering” or prompt consumers to scan a QR code, call a 1-800 number or visit a website.

Winners: The Grocery Manufacturers Association; the Food Marketing Institute; the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food — which includes hundreds of groups, including the Agricultural Retailers Association, Corn Refiners Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Milk Producers Federation. 


Taxes on Olympic Medals

After the Summer Olympics, legislation aimed at nixing the “victory tax” for some U.S. Olympic medal winners quickly gained steam.

Congress passed a law that prohibits the IRS from taxing medals or winnings, which range from $10,000 for bronze to the $25,000 prize that the U.S. Olympic Committee awards to gold medalists. The medal prizes had been considered earned income, subjecting them to taxes. The medals themselves were also taxed.

The only U.S. Olympians exempt from the tax break are those with lucrative endorsement deals who earn more than $1 million per year.

Winners: Olympic and Paralympic medalists;Team USA


Online Reviews

Congress in November passed legislation pushed by internet companies to protect consumers’ ability to write negative online reviews without facing repercussions.

The measure was modeled after a California law passed in 2014 and specifically bans businesses from including gag or non-disparaging clauses in non-negotiable contracts. Delivering a rare legislative victory for the tech industry in 2016, the Consumer Review Freedom Act cleared Congress in less than a year.

Winner: The Internet Association and its members, which include Amazon, TripAdvisor and Yelp.


Miscellaneous Tariff Bill

An update to the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill passed in May after being in limbo since its expiration at the end of 2012.

Reauthorizing the bill had been a top priority of the business community, with the National Association of Manufacturers saying that not renewing it had cost the economy $1.9 billion since 2013. The measure was held up for several years because House Republican rules labeled the measures as earmarks, which are banned.

The law overhauls the process for reducing or eliminating tariffs on imported production components not available or in short supply domestically.

Winners: Roughly 130 business groups urged Congress to act on the overhaul, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers leading the pack.


FOIA Reform

For roughly a decade, attempts to reform to the nation’s primary open-records law — the Freedom of Information Act — languished.

Unlike most legislative proposals, the overhaul was primarily opposed by federal agencies, which warned of a surge in lawsuits against the government.

Although some provisions were watered down to satisfy the intelligence community, the final law strengthens the FOIA process — and the power of those seeking government documents — in significant ways.

Winners: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Freedom of the Press Foundation; the National Security Archive, a non-profit research organization; Public Citizen; News Media Alliance; the American Library Association; Project On Government Oversight; and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.


Zika Funding

It took nearly seven months of bitter fighting on Capitol Hill before legislators finally agreed to a deal that allocates $1.1 billion to fight the spread and effects of the Zika virus.

The mosquito-borne disease, which began spreading swiftly through the Americas in February, causes severe birth defects in babies born to Zika-infected mothers. Public health groups pleaded for Congress to take action.

Winners: The March of Dimes; the National Pest Management Association; GlaxoSmithKline; the National Association of County and City Health Officials; the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases; Johnson & Johnson; the American Medical Association; and the American Academy of Family Physicians.


Internet Oversight

A yearslong effort by the government to hand over oversight of the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to a group of global stakeholders was in doubt when a group of lawmakers — led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a former 2016 candidate for president — fought to stop the transition.

Cruz called it a “giveaway of our internet freedom.” Proponents in the tech industry argued that the transition was an overdue, necessary step to keep the internet open, while still offering safeguards against abuse by any one country.

Winners: ICANN; Information Technology Industry Council; the Internet Association and some of its members, including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter; the Internet Infrastructure Coalition; The Domain Name Association; and the American Registry for Internet Numbers, among others.


— This article was updated at 10:10 a.m.

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