Watchdog Report: Lobbying Spend Declines Slightly in 2014

Open Secrets, the Center for Responsive Politics' watchdog site, reports that the amount spent on lobbying in 2014 continued a four-year slide, though the drop was modest compared to last year's. The number of registered lobbyists slid more significantly.

By the numbers, lobbying has hit the lowest point since George W. Bush was in office, but there are signs that its steady slide has started to slow.

Open Secrets, a watchdog website run by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, reports that federal disclosure records show lobbying expenditures in 2014 totaled $3.21 billion. That’s the lowest level since 2007, and it was the fourth straight year the total has fallen.

While the 2014 total is about $30 million below 2013’s, the decrease was far smaller than the previous year’s $80 million. Open Secrets‘ Russ Choma likened the scope of this year’s decline to a 1 percent “rounding error,” a change that could be primarily explained by a drop in spending during 2014’s post-election fourth quarter.

But the number of registered lobbyists working in Washington, DC, declined more significantly. The figure fell from the 2013 total by 369 registered operatives (a little over 3 percent) to 11,761, the lowest total the center has reported since 1998.

The news comes on the heels of a Center for Public Integrity report that found trade groups have been spending more on advertising and public relations than on lobbying in recent years.

The Biggest Spenders

The groups that spent the most to lobby Congress and the Obama administration in 2014 are for the most part the usual suspects: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Retailers, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield ranked as the top three, in that order, for the third year in a row. With a total of more than $124 million, the chamber spent more than the rest of the top five (a list rounded out by the American Hospital Association and American Medical Association) combined.

Comcast, which is attempting to merge with Time Warner Cable, had the largest  spending total among companies at $16.97 million. Its lobbying spending wast just below that of two telecom trade groups—the National Association of Broadcasters ($18.44 million) and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association ($17.46 million). Another company with a deep interest in telecom issues, Google, had the second-highest lobbying spend among corporations at $16.83 million, followed closely by Boeing ($16.80 million) and General Electric ($16.32 million).

Google’s growing lobbying prowess reflects a large uptick in such spending by the tech sector generally. Computer and internet companies spent $138.73 million on lobbying in 2014, Open Secrets reports.

Which individual lobbying firms top the list? Those names stayed mostly the same. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld’s $35.65 million in lobbying revenues beat out Squire Patton Boggs’ $31.57 million for the top spot. The latter firm, born from the merger of Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders, saw a steep 20.6 percent drop in revenue from 2013.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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