Archive for April, 2017

Highest Q1 Lobbying Spending Since 2012

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

Despite President Trump’s promises to drain the swamp under his administration, the lobbying industry has recorded its highest earnings in the first quarter for the past five years as many companies have invested heavily in lobbying activities aimed at the new administration and the Republican controlled congress. The Washington Post reports, “The first 100 days of the Trump administration have been extremely chaotic,” said Muftiah M. McCartin, a vice chair at Covington & Burling, which saw a 32 percent spike in earnings from lobbying, the largest growth of any firm. “As a result, companies across the globe are seeking assistance to help navigate the new administration.” The biggest spenders on lobbying were the pharmaceutical and health care industries. Per the Center of Responsive Politics the “industry spent the most at $78 million, about $10 million more than it did during the same period in 2016 for a 14 percent increase. (PhRMA did have the biggest spending spike of the top 10 spenders.)” Much of the activity by this industry can be attributed to the on-going battle to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Interestingly, despite the uptick in Q1 lobbying revenue, the number of registered lobbyists has decreased. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “From January to March, the number of registered lobbyists dropped 10.3 percent compared to 2016’s first quarter, with only 9,175 official lobbyists on record. That number has been declining in recent years, but this is the biggest drop since lobbying reports started being reported quarterly.”

Below are Politico’s rankings of the top lobbying earners in the first quarter of 2017.

  1. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: $9.1 million
  2. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: $6.6 million
  3. Squire Patton Boggs: $5.8 million
  4. The Podesta Group: $5.6 million
  5. Holland & Knight: $5.1 million
  6. BGR Government Affairs: $5 million
  7. Cornerstone Government Affairs: $4.5 million
  8. K&L Gates: $4.3 million
  9. Covington & Burling: $4.2 million
  10. Capitol Counsel: $4.1 million*
  11. Williams & Jensen: $3.9 million
  12. Van Scoyoc Associates: $4 million*
  13. Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas: $3.6 million
  14. Cassidy & Associates: $3.4 million
  15. Ernst & Young: $3.4 million*
  16. Peck Madigan Jones: $3.3 million*
  17. Fierce Government Relations: $3.2 million
  18. Capitol Tax Partners: $3.2 million*
  19. Ogilvy Government Relations: $2.9 million
  20. Alston & Bird: $2.7 million

GAO’s 2016 Compliance and Enforcement Report

Thursday, April 20th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

Earlier this month the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its tenth annual report on compliance with and enforcement of the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The GAO found that “some lobbyists were still unclear about the need to disclose certain previously held covered positions, such as paid congressional internships or certain executive agency positions. GAO estimates that 15 percent of all LD-2 reports may not have properly disclosed 1 or more previously held covered positions. However, over the past several years of reporting on lobbying disclosure, GAO has found that most lobbyists in the sample rated the terms associated with LD-2 reporting as “very easy” or “somewhat easy” to understand.”

In regards to enforcement Andrew Garrahan of Covington and Burling reports that, “Another interesting development is that the House and Senate have not referred any individual lobbyists to the USAO for LD-203 noncompliance since 2013, and have not referred any lobbyist employer for LD-203 noncompliance since 2014.”

Additionally, Garrahan argues that “based on GAO’s report, the USAO appears to have focused its enforcement efforts on “chronic offenders,” those lobbyists who “repeatedly fail to file reports.”  These chronic offenders are referred to an Assistant U.S. Attorney for follow-up action, and the USAO reports it has created a new notice for chronic offenders that lists all of their outstanding referrals.  Per GAO, the USAO has four chronic offender cases under investigation, and expects to resolve all of them this year.  Furthermore, it expects to open more chronic offender cases by the end of 2017.”

Revised LDA Guidance

Friday, April 7th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

Following the annual review of Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance, Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives issued revised guidance on January 31st, 2017.  Outlined below are the new updates included in the revised guidance. The full revised guidance can be found here.

Updated Registration Threshold

As required by the LDA, the lobbying disclosure thresholds referenced throughout the Guidance have been updated to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index (as determined by the Secretary of Labor) during the preceding 4-year period. After January 1, 2017, an organization employing in-house lobbyists is exempt from registration if its total expenses for lobbying activities does not exceed and is not expected to exceed $13,000 during a quarterly period. The $3,000 income threshold for lobbying firms remains unchanged. See Guidance Section 4 on “Who Must Register and When” for additional information.

The previous Guidance update included non-substantive grammatical changes throughout and revisions to sections that previously referred to Line numbers in the reporting forms, as the current online filing system no longer relies on Line numbers. References to the LDA were also revised to identify the citation from the U.S. Code, with Internet links added in the online Guidance document to the U.S. Code.

Identification of Client and Covered Officials

Clarification is added in Guidance Section 4 to reflect the requirement of lobbyists to identify their client and interest of foreign entities when making lobbying contacts, and the requirement of covered officials or their employing office to identify whether the individual is a covered official.

Outside Retained Lobbyists

Guidance Section 4 includes an additional example confirming that outside retained lobbyist names are not reported on the registration (LD-1) or quarterly activity reports (LD-2) of organizations that employ in-house lobbyists. The section re-affirms that outside retained lobbying costs must be taken into account when calculating lobbying expenses. Outside retained lobbyists file their own registration and quarterly reports.

Income and Expense Rounding and Reporting, Agencies Contacted

Guidance Section 6 includes a new example to clarify that income or expenses are required to be rounded to the nearest $10,000. Another example is expanded to suggest care be taken when an organization uses an entire office budget for reporting purposes, since additional lobbying expenses need to be factored in and may be overlooked when using such an expense reporting method. In the discussion of “Contents of the Report,” additional clarification is added to confirm that filers should choose the most specific Agency available from the reporting system list. If the list does not display the government entity contacted, the filer is advised to select the agency or department in which the entity is housed.

Lobbyist and Registrant Contribution Reports (LD-203)

An example is added to Guidance Section 7 to make it clear that sole proprietors, including those who register with their lobbyist name as the registrant name, are required to file two contribution reports each filing period—one report for the registrant and one report for the individual lobbyist.

Public Availability and Compliance

In Guidance Section 10, filers are encouraged to use the online public databases for compliance purposes, to verify that registrations and reports have been received and processed into the public databases. Registrations and reports are available online at the House website at, as well as the Senate website at