Record Lobbying Donations in 2016 Campaigns

As previously discussed in Lobby Blog, we are experiencing an election cycle filled with much anti –lobbying rhetoric from leading presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Donald Trump. Nevertheless, lobbyists have come to play a significant role supporting many of the 2016 presidential campaigns through direct donations and fundraising. Lobby Blog has previously reported that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “received more than $600,000 from more than 300 different registered lobbyists and PACs in the first half of 2015.”

The support for candidates from lobbyists has continued into 2016. According to the Hill, “Lobbyists may well give more in 2016 than they did in previous cycles… And with control of the Senate in play, it’s increasingly difficult for lobbyists from both parties to resist fundraising pleas.” Already in this election cycle “the top 20 givers among registered federal lobbyists, as identified by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, have collectively donated more than $2.5 million.”

The Hill argues that on the Democratic side one explanation of the increase in lobbying contributions is because of “new arrangements such as joint fundraising committees have also driven up the requests for money. And registered Democratic lobbyists, who for two presidential cycles were blocked by President Barack Obama from donating to his campaigns, have now been liberated. They have made Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton the top recipient of K Street cash among White House hopefuls this election cycle. The Democratic National Committee is also once more welcoming lobbyist checks.”

Lobbyists, such as Pat Raffaniello, who runs Raffaniello & Associates, also argue that while there may be an increase in spending from the industry, it is nothing compared to the millions of dollars raised and donated to PACs by highroller groups such as hedge funds. According to Raffaniello “Unless you are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, it seems like a wasted effort from a lobbying point of view…You don’t get on anybody’s radar screen.”  However, some like Nick Penniman, Executive Director of Issue One, argue that “direct donations from lobbyists to lawmakers and congressional candidates have special value, even if they’re comparatively low…Lobbyists don’t have the big checks, but lobbyists’ money, because it’s going directly to the campaigns, is pure gold…It’s the highest currency in political giving.”


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