Special Report

The Year Lobbyists Influenced Government Policy the Most Since 2008

The COVID-19 pandemic cut the revenue and profits of several business sectors, especially retail and food service. One industry, however, reported growing revenue during the pandemic – the lobbying industry.

OpenSecrets, an organization that tracks lobbying data and campaign contributions, recorded $3.7 billion in lobbying revenue in 2022, the highest total since 1998.

Each year, companies, labor unions, trade associations, and advocacy and special interest groups give billions to lobbying firms to sway Congress and federal agencies to pass – or not pass – legislation affecting their businesses. Many of these powerful lobbying firms work from offices along Washington, D.C.’s legendary K Street. Some companies keep lobbying efforts in-house. All told, more than 12,000 lobbyists roamed the halls of Congress in 2021.

To identify the years in which lobbyists spent the most to influence the government, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed trends in spending data from OpenSecrets. Data on the number of lobbyists each year and the largest deal in a particular year also came from OpenSecrets.

Not surprisingly, industries plowing the most dollars to lobbying firms were the mainstay manufacturers, unions, financial companies, technology outfits, and trade organizations. The top spender in 2021 was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at $66.4 million, followed by the National Association of Realtors at $44 million. Such groups also give money to lobby individual members of Congress. (These are the companies and interest groups that spend the most on lobbying in 2021: who spends the most lobbying the U.S. government.)

In 2021, companies affected most by the pandemic, such as cruise lines, increased their lobbying budgets in an attempt to relax COVID-19 restrictions and grab a piece of pandemic-related stimulus money. After spending just $10,000 in 2019, Norwegian Cruise Line spent $1 million last year to convince Congress to ease COVID-19 guidelines.

Despite the increase in spending of some industries of companies, most have not spent near what tech companies have spent in 2021 and before. Between 2015 and 2021, chip maker Qualcomm led all companies in expenditures to lobby Congress on any number of issues, including more visas for high-tech workers and a government infusion for the semiconductor industry. (Yet these are 14 big businesses run by the U.S. government.)

Lobbying efforts also came from obscure groups, such the New California Republic Co. In 2020, the organization spent $5.5 million in an attempt to split California into two states. In light of the fact the Golden State remains as one, the money wasn’t well spent.

Click here to see the year lobbyists influenced gov’t policy the most since 2008

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