IT’S DIFFICULT TO say whether last week’s lackluster first quarter numbers are indicative of a general demise in lobbying activity. Insiders are providing the press with abundant reasons to eschew the data, among these the assertion that Congress is nursing a hangover from the fiscal cliff, and that lobbying traditionally picks up in springtime.
Perhaps. These arguments, though seductive, will only be well-founded if Q2 numbers reveal a dramatic rebound. Some are certain this will happen. Rich Gold of Holland & Knight told The Hill that “the second quarter is when it’s going to hit.” He told The Washington Post that “a lot of hiring occurred in March, so you’re not collecting the dollars until the second quarter.” And The Post itself followed up with this argument: “The true test for firms may come in the second quarter, after companies and associations have a chance to review new legislation and take positions on which portions of it they want to oppose or support.”
Until then, however (Q2 ends in two months), the numbers remain strikingly low. Even compared to other first quarters (see graph), the last few months were a pitiful showing. Finally, the argument (articulated by one prominent lobbyist) that the opening of a new Congress is the most likely cause for this kind of slump simply doesn’t hold water. At the start of the 111th and 112th Congresses, the top ten lobbying firms spent over 1.5 times as much as they did this time around.