Lobbying has had a bad name, probably since the process started. People are paid to attempt to sway the opinions of politicians. Often, lobbyists are former elected officials, which means they exploit relationships they built as public servants to help the people, companies and organizations that pay them money, the amounts of which are often very large. Also, politicians who take money from or are entertained by lobbyists often get questions about where their loyalties lie. Are they with the people who elected them or the people that lobby them?
U.S. lobbyists raked in a record $3.7 billion in revenue last year from companies, labor unions and special-interest groups, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. This 6% growth compared to 2020 came after a tepid increase in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several spending packages were introduced in 2021, including a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package and $1.9 trillion in federal spending on pandemic relief. This led the private sector into a mad dash to grab pieces of both pies.
Industries fearful of policy changes, such as a proposal to restart taxes on chemical manufacturers to help pay for the cleanup of the country’s most polluted sites, helped boost lobbying spending last year. Similarly, calls to increase regulatory scrutiny of big tech also had companies lobbying hard.
To find the interest group that spent the most to lobby the government in 2021, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed OpenSecrets data on top spenders. To get a finalist, companies (lobbying clients) were ranked based on their total lobbying expenditures in 2021. Net income figures for the latest fiscal year came from company security filings or nonprofit newsroom ProPublica.
The top lobbyist was picked from 20 organizations that spent $434.3 million on lobbying in 2021, or about 12% of all lobbying spending last year. Many of the biggest spenders are organizations that represent special interest groups, such as manufacturers or pharmaceuticals.
Many of the top spenders are involved in health care, and four of them are focused on telecommunications, broadband and broadcasting. Two groups (the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) pursue favorable legislative treatment for corporations.
The pharmaceutical, chemical, biotech and manufacturing industries have their own special interest groups on this list. Amazon.com and Meta (formerly Facebook) spent the most on directly lobbying. The National Association of Realtors reported the highest net income of the special interest groups.
The top lobbyist is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent on lobbying a total of $66.4 million in 2021. This is the nation’s largest business lobbying group, and its net income in the latest fiscal year was $710,528.
The organization is aligned with the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Chemistry Council in its opposition to federal regulations aimed at mitigating climate change. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s plan to require publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions.
Click here to see all the groups that spend the most lobbying the U.S. government.
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