Watchdog Group Posts Lobbying Data On Its Web Site
Lobbying tops $1.2 billion a year, new report shows
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 20) -- A political watchdog group has built a computerized database of Washington lobbying expenditures and will offer free, searchable access to the information starting Friday.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance, has used the database to produce a report detailing the extent of Washington lobbying, including who spends the most and who earns the most. The group compiled information filed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.
During the first six months of 1997, the center found, 106 organizations spent at least $1 million each to lobby the federal government and 47 lobbying firms reported revenues exceeding $1 million.
The center's report shows businesses, trade organizations, labor unions and interest groups reported spending $608 million on lobbying during the first half of 1997, or more than $100 million a month. At that rate of spending, Capitol Hill lobbying is a $1.2 billion annual industry.
Center officials say the new database provides the first comprehensive look at lobbying spending since disclosure requirements took effect in 1996.
Starting Friday, the center will offer free access to the database via its World Wide Web site at www.crp.org. People can search by the names of lobbyists, their clients, areas of legislative interest or lobbying firms.
"This project demonstrates that providing Internet access to these lobbying filings is practical and valuable," Kent C. Cooper, the center's executive director, said in a statement. "The filing offices should make the data available to the public on the World Wide Web. And Congress should demonstrate a real commitment to full disclosure by requiring filers to submit the information electronically."
At the top of the spending list among lobbying groups during the first six months of 1997 was the American Medical Association, which reported spending $9.56 million, followed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $7 million. The tobacco company Phillip Morris ranked third at $5.9 million, followed by General Motors at $5.2 million, and the Edison Electric Institute at $5 million.
The top-earning lobbyist firm during the first half of 1997 was the Washington law firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand, which reported income of $8.44 million from 108 clients. Most of that revenue came from contracts with five tobacco companies, each of which paid $940,000. The tobacco companies are trying to persuade Congress to limit their liability in cigarette lawsuits.
Other top-earning lobbyist firms were Cassidy & Associates, which earned $8.3 million from 104 clients; Patton Boggs LLP, which earned $5,04 million from 174 clients; Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, which earned $4.82 million from 97 clients; and Preston, Gates, Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP, which earned $4.13 million from 58 clients.
Analysis of the data shows that issues dealing with taxation and the internal revenue code, followed by budget and appropriations concerns, are the most heavily lobbied issues. Overall, 7,051 different organizations were represented during the first half of 1997 by in-house lobbyists, lobbying firms, or both. Of those, 1,851 conducted at least part of their lobbying in-house. There were 1,427 firms and 9,198 individuals represented to lobby during the period.
The report also provides data on campaign contributions by leading lobbying firms and client organizations. In some cases, big-spending lobbyists also were major campaign contributors. For example, the American Medical Association spent $8.56 million on lobbying and gave more than $2.79 million in PAC, soft money, and individual contributions by employees and their relatives. However, other major lobbyists, such as the Christian Coalition and American Association of Retired Persons, made virtually no political contributions. Trade organizations tend to spend heavily on lobbying, but leave it up to member companies to make campaign contributions.