Shadow Lobbyists on the Rise?

Trump promised to drain the swamp, and by the numbers, he has done just that. 448 individuals who lobbied in the third quarter of 2016 did not report activity during the next two quarters. However, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and Open Secrets, “for the first time in five years,” the amount of money spent by organizations that were already registered went up in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period the previous year.”

While the lobbying firms are spending more money, and over half of the lobbyists are working for the same employer, twelve percent of the registered lobbyists are unaccounted for. Companies are claiming that their employees are moving to other parts of the company. David Whitrap, Vice President of corporate communications for Vertex Pharmaceuticals claims that, “it is quite common for our employees to move from department to department as they see opportunities to expand their experience and skill set.”

According to Bloomberg Politics, Trump’s ethics pledge could have opened the door to increased shadow lobbying. While many on Trump’s team came from lobbying backgrounds, such as Taylor Hansen and Byron Anderson. His pledge requires all appointees to not engage in lobbying activity for five years after they leave the federal government. However, many federal government employees have yet to sign the agreement.

The Center for Responsive Politics concludes that even though the number of registered lobbyists is decreasing, that does not mean that lobbying activity is declining. Rather, many lobbyists are continuing to work with the same employer, regardless of both former President Obama’s and President Trump’s attack on lobbyists. They also claim that “although we do find some differences by partisanship, the bigger picture is that despite denunciations of lobbyists by senior politicians in both parties, more and more lobbying goes on beyond public scrutiny, making it harder to hold those in power to account.”

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