Fifty companies and industry groups shelled out more than $716 million to lobby the federal government and Congress last year, according to data provided to The Hill by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The eye-popping total represents nearly a quarter of all federal lobbying dollars in 2016 and a slight increase over 2015, when the 50 biggest spenders doled out $715 million.
The five biggest spenders in lobbying last year, in descending order, were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the American Hospital Association and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America.
Rounding out the top 10 were the American Medical Association, Boeing, the National Association of Broadcasters, AT&T and Business Roundtable.
Influencing the government has become a multibillion-dollar business, with companies and trade associations hiring lobbyists and attorneys to push their agenda and shape policymaking.
Anger at lobbyists and special interests was a focal point of the presidential campaign, most famously expressed in President Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Trump has signed an executive order seeking to slow down the “revolving door” between administration jobs and the private sector, but few expect the deluge of lobbying to slow down under the new administration.
“Everyone across the board believe there’s going to be lots of activity in Washington,” Marc Lampkin, the managing partner of the Washington office at law and lobby firm Brownstein Hyatt -Farber Schreck, told The Hill last month.
“Corporate America has been seeking relief from the overreach of the Obama administration, so there will be activity on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue,” added Lampkin, a former aide to former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio).
Some of the companies and groups that boosted their lobbying spending last year did so in response to major legislative and regulatory fights.
Dow Chemical, which is seeking to merge with DuPont, boosted its advocacy spending by 26 percent, to $13.6 million.
Other companies that increased their spending included Prudential Financial, which paid lobbyists $9.4 million in 2016, an 18 percent increase over 2015; AbbVie which spent 39 percent more on lobbying; and T-Mobile, which spent $8,089,900, an increase of 32 percent.
Amazon significantly expanded its footprint in Washington last year. The company spent $11.4 million on advocacy, a 20 percent increase.
Some of the increases in advocacy spending were driven by the 2016 election.
The two groups that spent the most, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Realtors, included all political spending in their lobbying reports, which includes things like campaign advertising. Most entities do not report election activities in their total.
The Chamber’s spending totaled close to $104 million, while the Realtors spent almost $65 million.
Other companies and business groups dialed back their lobbying spending last year, in part due to the lack of legislative activity on Capitol Hill.
The National Association of Manufacturers spent $16.9 million on lobbying in 2015 as it pushed for passage of a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration. With that push stalled last year, the group trimmed its lobbying spending to $8.5 million, a nearly 50 percent drop.
One industry expert told The Hill that corporations are cutting back on the amount of dues they’re paying to large trade groups and trade associations, choosing instead to target their spending.
Many companies refused to comment about their advocacy on the record.
Year-to-year comparisons between the 50 largest lobbying spenders are imprecise, because different companies and groups come off and on the list each year.
Twenty-nine of the organizations on the top 50 spenders list for 2015 cut back their lobbying budgets in 2016, while seven companies and trade associations fell off the roster entirely.
The American Petroleum Institute, Qualcomm, America’s Health Insurance Plans and George Soros’s Open Society Policy Center all slashed spending on advocacy in 2016. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which scored a win on a GMO labeling law midway through 2016, reduced its advocacy 44 percent from the year before, spending $4.7 million.
But the biggest drops on the list came from CVS Health and General Electric.
CVS’s lobbying total plummeted 60 percent, to $6 million, in part because of how the company reported its figures. Last year, CVS only included federal lobbying in its advocacy total. The year prior, the company had included both state and federal lobbying in the total, according to a company spokeswoman.
GE, which was the sixth-biggest lobbying spender during 2015, plunged to No. 53 in 2016.
Meanwhile, AARP, Bayer, T-Mobile, American Airlines, Chevron, AbbVie and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers jumped onto the list — with AbbVie, which ranked 88th in spending in 2015, hitting the No. 50 spot last year. T-Mobile climbed to No. 42 from No. 66 in 2015.
— This post was updated at 10 a.m.
Top 50 Lobbying Spenders of 2016
|Client||2016 Spending||2015 Spending||2015 Rank|
|U.S. Chamber of Commerce||$103,950,000||$84,730,000||1|
|National Association of Realtors||$64,821,111||$37,788,407||2|
|Blue Cross Blue Shield||$25,006,109||$23,702,049||3|
|American Hospital Association||$20,970,809||$20,687,935||7|
|Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America||$19,730,000||$18,920,000||9|
|American Medical Association||$19,410,000||$21,930,000||4|
|National Association of Broadcasters||$16,438,000||$17,400,000||10|
|NCTA - The Internet and Telephone Assoc.||$13,420,000||$14,120,000||16|
|American Bankers Association||$9,831,000||$12,690,000||19|
|Biotechnology Innovation Organization||$9,230,000||$8,350,000||42|
|American Chemistry Council||$9,020,000||$10,050,000||30|
|Royal Dutch Shell||$8,990,000||$8,700,000||37|
|Edison Electric Institute||$8,620,000||$8,350,000||42|
|National Association of Manufacturers||$8,490,014||$16,950,000||11|
|National Amusements (CBS & Viacom)||$8,441,000||$7,980,000||46|
|United Parcel Service||$7,767,848||$8,155,856||45|
|Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers||$7,452,500||$7,640,000||53|
|Securities Industry & Financial Market Assoc.||$7,400,000||$7,770,000||50|
Data provided to The Hill by the Center for Responsive Politics, opensecrets.org