Tuesday’s Election: A Victory for the Cannabis Lobby

November 10th, 2017 by Vbhotla

Tuesday saw the Democrats celebrate decisive victories in Virginia and New Jersey’s governor elections, whilst also cutting GOP majorities in statehouses across the country. Democrats have hailed the results as a ‘liberal backlash’ against President Trump, but beyond the Democrat party, the marijuana lobby has also seen this weeks’ results as cause for celebration.

Both newly elected Governors, Ralph Northam of Virginia, and Phil Murphy in New Jersey, have spoken out strongly in favor of Cannabis reform. Murphey has openly stated his intention to sign legislation legalizing recreational cannabis, using his primary night victory speech to clarify his intentions once again, Ralph Northam, whilst not as clear on his position to recreational use, has nevertheless vocally stated his support for decriminalization, citing it as key ‘racial justice issue’. Whilst legalization attempts in Virginia may have failed in 2015, the marijuana lobby will see Northam’s election as a step forward to future reform efforts in the state.  Beyond the governor elections, voters in Detroit approved two ballot questions which will ease regulation on medical marijuana, and in California all seven local marijuana business measures put to voters were also given the green light.

With recreational use now legalized in eight states (and Washington D.C.), and medical use approved in 30 states, the success of cannabis reform groups is undeniable, and the relevance of the industry is set to continue to grow. Marijuana Business Daily has predicted that industry retail sales will hit over $6.1 billion this year, and whilst the industry has been weary of the Trump administration’s stance, investment in cannabis related firms is set to continue to grow rapidly. Greenwave Advisors have projected retail sales to grow by an eye watering $30 billion by 2021, and with growers scaling-up their operations, regulatory challenges will continue to manifest. Whilst individuals close to Trump, such as Attorney Jeff Sessions, have talked tough on cannabis use, those in the industry are hoping that through harnessing growingly liberal public attitudes, such a crackdown will become politically toxic. Not only this, but there is also a hope that the financial realities of a regressive shift on enforcement will also deter such actions. It’s clear nevertheless that the grassroots advocacy strategy pursued by pro-reform groups, and the harnessing of social media platforms to tap into public support, demonstrates the effectiveness such an approach can yield.

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FARA Enforcement, or Lack there of

November 3rd, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

Since the 2016 Presidential campaign, the influence of ‘foreign bodies’ within the U.S. political system has been in the spotlight like never before, and the indictment of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates this week is only set to further fuel speculation in the coming weeks. The pair stand accused of hiding their work, and money received, from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. While the law requires anyone that carries out ‘political activities’ for a foreign government or party to disclose this to the Justice Department, enforcement has been lax. Between 1966 and 2015 the Department of Justice bought just seven criminal FARA cases. Failure to properly enforce the law has led shadow lobbying, most notably on behalf of foreign governments, to become one of Washington’s worst kept secrets. But with such a high-profile indictment case, foreign lobbyists will feel the heat as prosecutors seek to dig deeper into the issue.

Bloomberg reported that the current Foreign Agent Registration Act database lists a total of 211 “foreign principals” from Russia that have hired the services of U.S. lobbying, public relations and law firms to represent them. Records also show “78 from Ukraine, 54 from Georgia, 44 from Azerbaijan, 34 from Kazakhstan and 19 from Uzbekistan” in what Bloomberg describes as the “avalanche” of post-Soviet cash that has hit Washington in the last two decades.

Manafort and Gates made more than $75 million working for Yanukovych and his Party of Regions “between ‘at least 2006 and 2015.’ Yanukovych is often called a pro-Russian leader, and while he tried to steer a middle course for Ukraine between ties to Russia and the European Union, his personal sympathies were with the like-minded regime of Vladimir Putin.” Tony Podesta’s the Podesta Group was also linked to Yanukovych, referred to as “Company B” in the indictment.

Amazon Steps Up the Offensive

October 27th, 2017 by Vbhotla

In early September Amazon’s shrewd announcement to open up bids for its new ‘HQ2’ has seen a wave of free publicity for the company amidst a reported 238 proposals. The often public displays of courting have come from all but 7 American states, cities and regions across the country, allured by the prospects of 50,000 highly paid jobs that Amazon has promised for its new site. Amazon has not held back in its demands; 8 million square feet of office space, direct access to mass transit, an international airport within close proximity, and of course access to a top pool of talent- all within a metropolitan area of over 1 million people.

But whilst Amazon continues to enjoy hyper growth, its recent takeover of Whole Foods, and subsequent growing power over the retail market, has seen the company face growing skepticism and spotlight, Trump himself publically critical of the company’s tax practices, and even personally accusing CEO Jeff Bozos of using the Washington Post as his own mouthpiece. Both on the right and left of the house, criticism has been mounted around issues of antitrust, privacy and public disclosure. Amazon’s response to this growing pressure has seen the company wage a courting campaign of its own in the nation’s Capitol.

The company has cemented itself as one of the largest corporate lobbying outfits in the Capitol, The New York Times reporting an increase in lobbying staff from 60 to 83, and spending is well on its way to surpassing its previous peak. At $6.2 million in the first two quarters of this year, Amazon has reached 11th in the charts of company spending, going beyond other retail giants Walmart and Exxon. But beyond just raw spending, the company seems to increasingly pursue a strategy which has seen its web of influence in Washington continue to broaden. In 2016 Amazon gave over $10,000 each to a range of 66 think tanks, lobbying groups and political organizations, of these over a dozen were new relationships. The stepping up of government relation efforts was laid out even further last month, when the company donated $50 million to a White House plan to promote computer science in classrooms. As the power of tech continues to explode, Amazon is far from alone in its mounting efforts, as growth across the tech sector will not only continue to fuel the power of the tech giants, but so too an increased level of scrutiny across a much broader range of fronts.

Trump, NAFTA and the ‘Buy America’ Agenda

October 20th, 2017 by Vbhotla

A looming December deadline for NAFTA negotiations was pushed back to March 2018, as the fourth round of talks stalled earlier this week.  President Trump has made his views clear on the 1994 Trade deal, famously describing it as ‘the worst trade deal in history’ whilst speaking as a Republican Nominee in Pennsylvania. The President’s hardball approach has infuriated Canadian and Mexican officials, with the Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland accusing the U.S. as bringing a ‘winner-take-all-mindset’ to negotiations.

NAFTA transformed trading relations between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, tripling the amount of trade between the three countries, and cementing Mexico’s reliance on its northern neighbor, now accounting for over 80% of its export custom. But last week Trump re-iterated the prospect of simply walking away from the deal if he fails to make the changes he believes are crucial for U.S. jobs and manufacturing. Unsurprisingly, both the implications of Trump’s desired changes, and the alternate prospect of an all-out ratification, has sparked a wave of business concern and lobbying efforts. The U.S. Chambers of Commerce was estimated to bring together more than 100 representatives of various interest groups, in what President and CEO Thomas Donohue described as ‘an army’. Whilst the Chambers of Commerce has broadly stated its desire to end ‘the roller coaster ride of uncertainty’, many of its varying interest groups have specific bones to pick surrounding the President’s direction of travel. But the Trump administration has expressed cynicism towards such vocal critics, U.S. Trade Representative Spokeswomen Emily Davis played down concerns, stating that changes will ‘of course be opposed by entrenched Washington Lobbyists and trade Associations’.

The auto industry has been among the most vocal of critics, mobilized by Trump’s desire to increase the rule of origin to 85%, and limiting it to just U.S. manufacturing products. The proposal has seen The Association of Global Automakers, representing over-seas carmakers, descend on Capitol Hill in an effort to dissuade the Trump Administration from pursuing its line. If Mexico and Canada were to accept such proposals, the affects could be profound for both Mexican and American manufactures. With Mexico holding a $74 billion automobile deficit with the U.S., Trump believes U.S. jobs and manufacturing have suffered too greatly, but if industry is to see a steep rise in production costs, many voices are foreseeing a shift to Germany and Japan, the former importing cheaper parts from Eastern Europe, and the latter from across Asia. With agreement looking unlikely, many in the industry are instead anticipating the challenges an all-out ratification could pose.

California, Transparency and the Super PACs

October 12th, 2017 by Vbhotla

On Saturday last week California Gov. Gerry Brown signed the state’s new Disclosure Act (AB249) into law, which will come into play for the state’s 2018 gubernatorial/legislative elections and ballot measure campaigns.  The requirements of the new Act, reported by Covington, will see a host of new transparency laws introduced, going above and beyond federal requirements. Most significantly, the Act will require almost all campaign advertising to include visible disclosure of who funded the message. Crucially, the law will also be tightened on ballot measure ads and candidate ads funded by outside groups, because whilst a degree of disclosure requirements previously existed, it was permissible for the information to be hidden in ‘small print’. But now on TV and video campaign ads, the tightening of rules will see donors names appear in a black box on roughly 1/3 of the screen, for around 5 seconds.

Gov. Gerry Brown hailed the move, adding that he hoped it would encourage others to follow suit. And echoing those who had fought to get the bill through, Brown argued that the move will enhance democracy in California enabling voters to make ‘informed decisions, based on honest information about who the true funders of campaign ads are’.

Proponents of the new measures, who have cited concerns over an increase in campaign spending of over $1 billion between 2012 and 2016, believe the requirements are a vital curb against the growing influence and anonymity of ‘super PACs’.  The growth was seen to be fueled by the 2010 Supreme Court ruling during Citizens United vs. FEC, affirming the right for corporations to make independent contributions to political candidates. Beyond California, in Florida last week the City of St. Petersburg issued its intent to clamp down on ‘super PACSs’ even further, passing an ordinance which will seek a $5,000 limit on contributions to groups that raise money for independent expenditures or electioneering communications in its city elections. However the Supreme Court’s judgement of the Citizens United vs FEC case in 2010 casts significant doubt over the constitutional viability of such a plan. But nevertheless, it’s clear that Gov. Gerry Brown’s approval of California’s Disclosure Act will help further fuel debate as other states watch on with interest.

Converging on K Street

October 6th, 2017 by Vbhotla

Last week the release of Trump and the ‘Big 6’s plan to rewrite the U.S. tax code has seen a ready-steady-go convergence on K Street. The lobbying industry has not so much been gifted by what was in the nine page document, but more what remains left out. Unsurprisingly perhaps Trump’s plan to overhaul the tax code, stretching thousands of pages long, is far from fully spelt out in last week’s initial document. Former Republican congressmen turned lobbyist, Thomas M. Reynolds summarized the concerns of industry saying ‘you’re either going to be at the table, or you’re going to be on the table’. Whilst recent lobbying efforts surrounding Obamacare repeal were concentrated among a limited number of industries, almost every industry, special interest and consumer group has an interest in the tax code.

Whilst the document spelt out some core ambitions, to slash corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, the creation of a new 25% tax rate for ‘pass through’ businesses, a lowering of the top individual tax rate from 35% to 39.9% and a raising of the bottom rate from 10% to 12%, other elements remain ambiguous. The New York Times highlighted this ambiguity on Page 8. The substance of the page refers to vague plans to repeal or roll back numerous exclusions and deductions, to ‘modernize’ tax rules affecting certain industries, and to ‘ensure that the tax code better reflects economic reality and that such rules provide little opportunity for tax avoidance’. With such language, Thomas M. Reynolds assertion that business will ‘not have to be encouraged to engage’ appears to hold weight; figures from the congressional lobbying disclosures show that from the beginning of the year to the end of last week companies and trade associations have submitted near-on 450 filings to lobby on tax issues, compare with fewer than 265 in all of 2016. Whilst for the optimist, the language from last week’s document could indicate a unique opportunity to go on the offensive, with bubbling pressure from deficit concerned Republicans to ‘foot the bill’, others may go into the forthcoming weeks cautiously focusing on a defensive campaign to maintain current interests.

Trump Waives through Jones Act

September 29th, 2017 by Vbhotla

In 2014 John McCain said ‘the power of this maritime lobby is as powerful as anybody or any organization I have run up against in my political career’. This week President Trump has had to face up against the shipping industry amidst mounting pressure to lift the 1920 Jones Act. The Act requires that ships going from American coast to American coast must be American- built, owned, flagged and crewed. Whilst the law gives strong advantage and security to American shipping firms, its critics have seen it as a hamper to free trade, unfairly inflating the price of shipped goods. Unsurprisingly such criticism has most notably been leveled by Hawaii, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, who claim to be disproportionately affected by the Act.

Earlier this week Trump appeared reluctant to commit to waiving the act, something he had previously done for both Florida and Texas, stating cautiously that ‘a lot of people who are in the shipping industry don’t want it’ lifted. However on Thursday the President issued a waiver for an initial 10-day period. How much it will help is unclear, most of Puerto Rico’s ports have been destroyed or disabled by Maria, along with 80% of the territory’s crop value, thousands of homes, and the island’s power grid. Port San Juan, one of the largest functioning ones, is packed full of containers full of food, water and resources but there is simply not the means to distribute the produce.

John McCain and others however have expressed the view that not wavering the Act would largely inflate the cost of the Island’s relief effort. McCain has long been an advocate of repealing the law, and Maria has clearly opened up the debate once again. Despite its critics, The Washington Examiner reported that among representatives of states with ports and strong shipping industries, the Act continues to maintain strong support, with the interests of the Shipping Industry strongly anchored by the Shipbuilders Council of America.

The Trial of Senator Bob Menendez: Bribery, Friendship or Naivety?

September 22nd, 2017 by Vbhotla

The on-going federal bribery trial of Senator Bob Menendez, expected to last up to two months, once again opens up the age old debate of when does a gift become a bribe? The trial of the New Jersey Democrat is centered on Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen. Melgen, who made his fortune specializing in medical care, faces 18 counts of fraud and bribery. The multi-millionaire is alleged to have given the Senator flights, hotel stays and campaign funding in exchange for Menendez’s help with personal and professional issues.

The defense has focused on what they claim to be the genuine friendship between the pair, and therefore the non-political nature of Melgen’s gifts. Prosecutors have refuted this justification, asserting that friendship is no excuse for bribery, but the defense has maintained its focus insisting that ‘friendship is an absolute defense to bribery because when you’re friends and you do things for friends because they’re friends, there is no intent to bribe’. The trial has heard numerous anecdotes of evidence seeking to prove their close and personal relationship. The singling out of Melgen, the defense have even claimed represents an attack on the entire Hispanic American community.

In the mid 2000’s the uncovering of Washington’s most infamous lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, or ‘the man who bought Washington’, transformed the debate, as the country’s lawmakers sought to draw a clear line under the issue, the spotlight was put on lobbying like never before. The aftermath saw a hike in the legal penalties for those caught issuing freebies, and whilst rules prior to the scandal had barred lawmakers and senior staff members from accepting gifts worth over $50, the rules were rarely enforced. This changed, and lobbying firms were also put under new obligations to meet more stringent quarterly expense certification requirements, expanding on the existing requirements set out in the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act.

Obama’s Executive Order in 2009, saw an even further clamp down with a ban, barring minor exceptions, on the acceptance of gifts from lobbyists to Political Appointees. The alleged tradeoff between Menendez and Melgen, focuses on claims that Menendez lobbied on a Medicare billing dispute, in addition to a contract dispute involving another Melgen company. Beyond business, the trial has also heard former senior advisor Mark Lopes testify that Menendez put direct pressure on furthering the visa applications of Melgen’s two sisters. Whilst the defense may have sufficient evidence of the pair’s close friendship, prosecutors will continue to refute the relevance of this.

Rising Stakes Amidst the Fall Agenda

September 13th, 2017 by Vbhotla

In a previous Lobby Blog post, we discussed the ‘clogging’ of federal Lobbying Activity and the decline in registered lobbyists, amidst frustrations over a seemingly ‘dysfunctional’ legislative program. And with congress eight months into its session, failing to pass any major legislation, such frustrations were perhaps unsurprising. This week however, analysis from The Washington Examiner indicates a forthcoming surge in activity as business anticipates the fall agenda, set to focus in on the first major tax reform in over a decade, in addition to a looming budget.

Lobbyists are on track to spend more this year than any since 2010. If spending maintains the same pace, the annual figure will stand at over $200 million more than the previous year. Expenditure data from the Center for Responsive Politics show pharmaceutical and insurance lobbying dominated the first half of the year, but with the agenda shifting from healthcare to the broader business landscape, experts anticipate a burst in activity from business groups. Co-leader of Akin Gump, Hunter Bates, discussed that ‘with Republicans controlling the House and Senate, the business community has moved on to the offensive’.

The US Chamber of Commerce remained the biggest player this year (through June), with spending of $40 million, its 35 in-house lobbyists working on dozens of bills across an array of issues, from healthcare to energy policy. Meanwhile the National Association of Realtors came second, spending $21.1 million.

Big spending increases were seen by the National Retail federation, who spent more in the first half of 2017 than the whole of last year ($7.1 million). Vice president for government relations, David French reflected that whilst the group has stayed engaged in trade and healthcare, the figures represented a defensive campaign in which battles over a proposed new border-adjustment tax and a hiking of debit card fees, have dominated. Whilst Trump’s ability to achieve significant reform remains uncertain, it’s clear that across an array of industries, the coming months will see the business community engage in maximizing the potential for far reaching, business friendly reforms.

Trump’s Battle With Silicon Valley

September 7th, 2017 by Vbhotla

The Trump administration’s announcement this week to wind down the Obama-led DACA program, affecting an estimated 800,000 who arrived in the US as unregistered children, has further exposed growing rifts between industry and Trump’s emerging immigration reforms. Whilst the announcement sparked an avalanche of social media criticism, unsurprisingly from vocal Trump critics such as Mark Zuckerberg, increasingly industry’s response is becoming far from reserved to the realms of Twitter.

With key tech giants Google, Amazon, Apple and Uber all spending record sums on lobbying federal officials, the new political climate has seen Silicon Valley extend its lobbying agenda away from merely tax reform, and towards a host of new issues from climate change, net neutrality and the case in point, immigration. Whilst headlines may focus on the ideological clashes of tech CEOs and President Trump, increased spending on immigration lobbying, reported by Bloomberg Government Data, indicates the practical significance faced by the industry.

Until this week, lobbying on the DACA program had broadly speaking been reserved for universities and colleges, the tech giants previously focusing their efforts on maintaining, and expanding, the H-1 B visa program. The program, designed to allow highly skilled tech workers into the US, has become integral to the tech industry, with Microsoft alone employing over 5,000 workers on the program. The Fwd.us group, an immigration advocacy group founded by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, has been a key driving force behind such efforts. In 2015, intensified lobbying resulted in a public clash, as Trump accused Zuckerberg and the tech industry of attempting to undercut US citizens through cheap foreign labor.

This week The Hill reported Fwd.us’s soliciting of signatures from key business leaders in an open letter to the White House. The letter, setting out opposition to Trump’s DACA stance, shows an increased mobilization, and willingness, of industry opposition and action against Trump’s immigration reforms. The huge social media platforms and public reach possessed by key tech players could also fuel growing grassroots advocacy movements that Trump may face ahead.

Clogging the Swamp

August 31st, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

In contrast to a previous LobbyBlog post, the Boston Globe reported that lobbying numbers have been declining due to “the slow pace of legislation, stiffer rules, and a gradual decline in the number of lobbyists.” The number of registered lobbyists has declined, and so has spending from special interest groups. “There were 9,791 registered lobbyists at the end of June, the fewest since 2008, according to a Globe review of the last decade of lobbying data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.”

While lobbying numbers are down, it is much more surprising that overall spending by special-interest groups has not increased. Dan Auble, a senior researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics said, “it’s surprising. Everyone expects when there’s a change in party and agenda- and claims of changing a lot of policies- that it’s a huge opportunity for companies and industries.” Most special-interest groups and large companies realize that Washington is dysfunctional right now, so they would prefer not to waste money on causes where there is no movement on the Hill.

Further, lobbyists believe that the Trump administration has “given them little to lobby over.” For example, the health care bill was negotiated privately. Therefore, lobbyists did not have the opportunity to influence lawmakers. President Obama also cracked down on hiring lobbyists to preserve institutional integrity, and those rule changes affect lobbying today. These new rules created an “incentive [for lobbyists] to avoid registering in the first place.” In addition to their lack of registration, lobbyists are changing their focus from energy and natural resources to health care and business- both of which have increased since 2009.

Utilizing Technology in Advocacy

August 24th, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

Where advocacy organizations and associations often fall short is one area where government relations professionals can thrive: digital and social trends. Because advocacy groups and associations are often required to stay non-partisan, they appear bureaucratic in nature, “where innovation can be undervalued and work ethic insubstantial,” according to The Hill. However, many believe that technological innovation has improved things for legislative and issue-based advocacy.

The first method in which technology has changed the political realm is social media. Not only has it changed the way people interact in general, but it has also changed the way members of Congress interact with their constituents. It has also decreased the cost for members to communicate with constituents. Given the cost effectiveness of social media, email is losing its efficacy. Members are transitioning from using email for marketing to texting and social media platforms.

Fly ins and grassroots organizing are also becoming more effective with the advent of new technology. For example, “with the unpredictability of congressional schedules and the stress that ensues for association staff, legislative staff and constituent attendees, these underutilized apps offer solutions to real problems at reasonable costs.” These same apps can be used to do grassroots organizing. Therefore, advocacy organizing is just as important as political organizing. Organizations would most likely be more successful if they utilized the technology that is available now, whether that be apps, social media, or even innovative email marketing.

Lobbying on Tax Reform

August 17th, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

President Trump is ready to sign a tax reform bill in the fall. However, the last time Congress “overhauled the tax code” was in 1986. At that time, it seemed impossible to pass a broad bill with only Republican votes, according to Politico. Therefore, tax lobbyists are attempting to predict what the bill that gets passed will look like. “Some are pushing for Republicans to embrace a long-shot strategy to tie tax reform to an infrastructure spending package to bring Democrats on board. Others have given up hope that Congress will be able to pass anything more than a temporary tax cut for individuals- maybe the only measure that can attract 50 Republican votes in the Senate.”

Some who were working on the Hill in 1986 suggest that the bill will include lower rates and some business tax changes, with some temporary tax cuts. Lobbyists say that “Republicans don’t seem to have made enough progress to get a bill to the president’s desk by the end of the year.” However, even the potential for tax reform has caused tax lobbying to skyrocket. “Lobbying firms have signed 355 contracts to lobby on taxes so far this year…That’s more than double the 152 contracts signed in the same period last year.”

However, Congress is not likely to make any headway on tax reform before it solves the issue of raising the debt ceiling and preventing a government shutdown. Further, the difference between the reform bill of the 1980s and what is being proposed today is that the bill did not hit Reagan’s desk until two years after it started being discussed. Also, Reagan had a 60% approval rating at the time, whereas Trump’s approval rating currently lies at 36%.

The Democratic Party’s Potential Fundraising Crisis

August 10th, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

Even though the Democratic base is energized, “the party has a serious fundraising crisis,” according to Politico. While the Republican National Committee raised $75 million over the first half of 2017, the Democratic National Committee only pulled in $38 million. Surprisingly, Republicans have taken the lead over Democrats when it comes to small-dollar fundraising.

The lack in small-dollar fundraising is a symptom of the Democrats’ recent struggle for grass-roots enthusiasm and passion for cold calling and knocking on doors. Those on Bernie Sanders’ campaign argue that the Trump campaign took their ideas and mimicked them to attract small donors. Both the Sanders campaign and the Trump campaign used powerful messaging, rather than “hiring the right people or using the right technology,” to reach voters.

Previously, Democrats were the champions of small-dollar fundraising, especially in Howard Dean’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns. However, Donald Trump outdid them both by raising $329 million in small donations. Now, to brighten their future, the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DNCC) need to update their tactics.  This includes changing their current email tactic- attempting to “shock, depress, or shame people into action”- to empowering people to take action. Further, “instead of tricking people into donating, it should give people something to believe in, and show how they can win together.” However, this will not be easy for an ailing party with outdated outreach methods. Experts believe without an overhaul, “the Democratic Party is going to keep losing to Donald Trump and the Republicans in the money race, big and small.”

Lobbying Expenses Increase, Lobbyists in Washington Decrease

August 3rd, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

Lobbying spending in the first six months of 2017- $1.66 billion- is the highest it’s been since the first half of 2012. After the first half of 2012, lobbying spending dropped by about $50 million in 2013.

However, according to Open Secrets, the number of lobbyists in DC is shrinking. “Since the first quarter of this year, approximately 940 stopped lobbying, but 605 new lobbyists entered the fray. This ebb and flow brought the total number of active lobbyists for the second quarter to 9,460- 335 less than the first quarter.

While it may seem like lobbyists are dwindling, a report from the Center of Responsive Politics shows that one-third of 2016 lobbyists “who were not active in the first quarter of 2017 stayed at the same company, but now work under a new title that suggests they still work to influence US federal policy.” Therefore, Open Secrets predicts that many former lobbyists stay involved in influencing policy without the same level of public scrutiny.

One area of major lobbying growth has been in the internet industry. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc, are “at the forefront of the industry’s lobbying efforts.”  The internet industry increased its lobbying spending by fourteen percent in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first six month of 2016. Other tech companies such as Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp also saw increased lobbying efforts in the first half of 2017. Apple’s lobbying efforts increased by 60 percent, while Microsoft’s increased by 9 percent. However, groups lobbying on women’s issues saw a major drop in lobbying spending. The exception to that rule are organizations that lobby for Planned Parenthood.