Lobbying is money in the bank. That’s the takeaway from The Nation’s (March 10) 5,921-word epic that corrects the misperception that lobbying in D.C. is a shrinking business.

the nationThe special investigation written by Lee Fang notes that while the number of registered lobbyists—12,281-has dipped to its lowest level since 2002, the number of unregistered advocates has ballooned to 100,000.  Various disclosure loopholes (grassroots advocacy, for instance) are responsible for the rise in unregistered lobbyists.

The lefty magazine says the reported $3.2B in lobbying outlays is a fraction of the more than $9B spent for drafting and shaping U.S. federal policy.

What’s the attraction of lobbying for Big Business? 

A McKinsey study in November found that government regulation and intervention affects about 30 percent of a company’s bottom line. For relatively little cost, a successful lobbying campaign provides a big return on investment. The Nation cites a University of Kansas study that found companies pushing for a tax holiday receives a 22,000 percent return on their investment.

Meanwhile, federal regulators are overwhelmed by the surge in lobbying activity. 

The Justice Dept. has four staffers overseeing compliance with the weak lobbying regulations currently on the books.

Keith Morgan, deputy chief of the U.S. attorney’s office in charge of lobby law enforcement, concedes: “We have no ability to know if somebody doesn’t register unless some insider or a competitor comes and says, ‘We have reason to believe that this individual or this group is lobbying.’”

That’s not going to happen in the lobbying fraternity.

The Nation sees only smooth sailing for lobbying. It points to the number of building cranes that are reshaping the D.C. skyline, and recent deals such as Publicis Group’s takeover of Qorvis Communications, which advocates for Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China.

The article is a must-have for the briefcase of any government relations or PA pro who faces questions from a potential client about the worth of his or her service.