K Street—the lobbying capital of our country. If you want something done, no matter what it is, you’ll be able to find someone on K street to lobby Congress on your behalf. But, is this a benefit to our political system?
It depends. If you’re a senior citizen, you probably belong to the AARP and like it that the AARP lobbies on issues concerning senior citizens. If you love your guns and believe that some nefarious government agency, like Early Childhood Nutrition, is going to raid your home and take them away, you probably belong to the NRA or GOA and like it that they lobby about gun control. If you’re a business, you probably belong to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and, if you’re a larger business, you may belong to the chamber and have your own lobbyist. Either way, someone is lobbying on your behalf. So, what do lobbyists do? Well, one thing they do is sit around the halls of Congress waiting for a convenient ear to bend, and then they go to work.
We find out how effective their efforts are when we look at things like the Monsanto Protection Act, the background check bill, and (insert the bill here that passed and you did/didn’t like).
In Part I—The Business of Lobbying, I looked at lobbying as a big and pervasive business. I used data available from the Center for Responsive Politics to build my databases on lobbying. In this part, I’ll use more of that data to look at some lobby contracts, corporate spenders, lobbyist contributions in our 2012 election cycle, and who got the contributions, so we’ll be able to find out where some of the lobbying money went. Remember though, that I’m providing summary data, there are too many different issues to get to the bottom line in this post. I just hope that between my first post and this one, you’ll become interested enough to explore the data available at the Center for Responsive Politics.
The first thing I want to look at is the top 20 contracts between lobbying firms and their clients. We see the top 20 contracts between 1998 and 2012 in this table. Look at the total…over $276 million dollars. Wow! Look at some of the clients—Blackstone Group, Mars, Boston University (Boston University?), General Electric, and the list goes on. Those K Street boys are busy getting contracts and pressing issues. But, who are some of the major corporate spenders?
This table gives us that information for the top 20. The All Years column is the 1998-2012 ranking based on spending, the 2012 rank is just that…what they spent in 2012. Next, we see what our top 20 spent in 2012. You’ll recognize the names and probably connect them to issues you like or don’t like, but these spenders put over $480 million into the lobby pot for their favorite issue(s). Check out the ‘new kids on the block’, the businesses that didn’t show in the all-years top 20—Google, Comcast, National Association of Broadcasters, and Royal Dutch Shell. The others shifted places, and that indicates some major issue(s) for them in 2012. I’ll leave you to figure out those issues, there are too many to put in this post.
When our lobbyists tire of sitting around the hallways and an election cycle shows on the horizon, some of that money lobbyists made goes to politician’s pockets as campaign contributions. Is this the “circle of life” we hear about? For the answer, ask your favorite politician or lobbyist.
The top 15 contributors added over $2 million to the 2012 election cycle. As you can well tell, democrats received over twice as much as the republicans, and super PACs received about 25 percent of the contributions.
Now, where did the campaign contributions go? For that answer, we turn to the recipients of campaign contributions. The top 20 recipients are (I know you’ll recognize many of the names)—
Lobbyists and their family members contributed over $13 million to the top 20 recipients in the 2012 election cycle. However, democrats received over two times what the republicans received, but over 84 percent of this money went to senators. Makes sense to me because you can pretty much get your way if you have a couple of senators in your pocket. Now, look at the top recipient—name familiar? Only three representatives received donations and Speaker of the House John Boehner is on top!!! Wow, who is he going to side with — the people who elected him or the people who fill his coffers with cold, hard cash?
I’ve known lobbying was big business for many years, but I didn’t know the extent of money flowing in and around lobbying issues. Way too much money!!! Way too much influence!!! We witnessed that with the recent bill that would mandate background checks for gun buyers. Over 90 percent of the American people and over 85 percent of gun owners favored this bill and it lost because 45 senators voted “no”. If these senators feared the voters, they wouldn’t vote no; so there must be another reason and the only reason I can think of is the anti-gun control lobby. It’s shameful when lobbyists can control our Senate and ignore the American people. So, what are Americans to do?
We the people need to take our government back!!!! We the people need to make sure that our elected representatives represent us and not special interests. But, you know, that’s where it’s hard for us because we all have issues we favor or hate. So where does that leave us? The only answer to that question is for more of us to become politically involved and let our elected representatives know we’re watching them. It doesn’t do any good to produce a poll that shows 90 percent of the American people favoring a piece of legislation, we know that doesn’t work. What would work is for 90 percent of the American public to write/call/visit their elected representatives and let them know the legislation we like or don’t like. That’s the numbers they’ll listen to, but we have to do it over and over. We have to be diligent, we have to be active, we can’t stop, or our voice won’t be heard. Can we do that? You’ll have to answer for yourself. As for me, I am doing more now than I ever have and I do not intend to slow down.
K Street photo credit /Flickr.com
Lobbyists photo credit /Flickr.com