Shadow Lobbying and the 2016 Election

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” and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise Super PAC has “brought in $523,325 from lobby firms and $282,850 from 107 lobbyists, according to the Federal Election Commission.” However, this may not be the full story. According to Politico only a fraction of the lobbyists who fundraise for campaigns are reported in the mandatory disclosures from campaigns, once again highlighting the issue of the “unlobbyist” and shadow lobbying.

As previously reported by Lobby Blog, unlobbyists are those who participate in lobbying activities without ever formally registering as a lobbyist. According to the Politico report, “A quarter of the “Hillblazers” who bundled $100,000 or more for Clinton work at lobbying firms or public affairs agencies lobby at the state level or otherwise make their living from influencing the government on behalf of special interests, even though they aren’t themselves registered to lobby Congress. For Bush, 58 of the 342 people who raised at least $17,600 are advocates and operatives linked to the influence industry, although they aren’t reported as federal lobbyists.”

In total, when all donations from all professional influencers are added up, Clinton received at least $5.4 million compared to $3.2 million from registered lobbyists disclosed to the FEC, a difference of $2.2 million dollars. Similarly, when examining donations to the Bush campaign Politico found that he received $1.02 million in total from professional influencers, more than double the $408,000 that was reported from registered lobbyists.

Discussing this issue with Politico Matthew Rumsey, a senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation said, “It really speaks to the breadth of the loopholes that exist for D.C. lobbyists: Once you reach a certain point in your career, you never have to register to lobby no matter how much influence you’re exerting.”  Politico underscores this point highlighting Steven W. Farber, president and founding partner of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. According to the report, “He bundled at least $100,000 for Clinton, so he’s listed as a Hillblazer. But he hasn’t registered as a lobbyist since 2008, although he now employs an army of them.” reports that the firm brought in $23,400,000 in lobbying revenue in 2014.

However, not all 2016 presidential candidates have been willing to embrace the support of lobbyists and other professional political influencers. In an interview with Breitbart top Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said, “I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m not running with anybody’s money. I’m spending my own money. But the lobbyists have — they totally control these politicians. Just take a look, in one of the articles, very recently, I see Bush with the lobbyists. And he’s sitting there with all of these people. They’re totally telling them what to do, like a little puppet. And the same with Hillary, and the same with everybody else.”

As these issue of lobbyists and the 2016 presidential election develop Lobby Blog will continue to monitor the issue and report the latest lobbying news.

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