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.