Clients spent $3.42 billion on lobbyists last year, the highest levels in nearly a decade, according to a report released by nonpartisan research group the Center for Responsive Politics.
It’s the largest sum spent on lobbying activities since the industry’s record-breaking peak in 2010, the year that Obamacare was passed by Congress and signed into law, according to the CRP’s report.
Shelling out $280 million, the pharmaceutical sector spent more on lobbying than any other industry last year, surpassing its previous 2009 lobbying record of $272 million. The trade groups and companies inside this sector also broke records: the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $28 million in 2018, also beating its 2009 record of $27 million. PhRMA members Pfizer, Amgen, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie, were ranked as top pharmaceutical-industry spenders.
Insurance followed pharmaceuticals at a distant second ($157 million) and the equipment and electronics manufacturing industry took third ($145 million). Business associations and oil & gas rounded out the top five spenders, at $142 million and $124 million, respectively.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce came in as the top single spender, dropping nearly $95 million on lobbying expenditures last year. According to the report, the USCC spent nearly $26 million in 2018’s fourth quarter alone, in light of Trump’s tariff war with Canada and Mexico. The National Association of Realtors came in at second place with a record-setting total of nearly $73 million, spending $19 million in Q4, more than any group reported. The Open Society Policy Center ($32 million), PhRMA ($28 million) and the American Hospital Assn. ($24 million) filled out the top-five single spenders for 2018.
Law and lobbying giant Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld continued its reign as K Street’s most profitable firm, bringing in $37.6 million in billings last year, even though this revealed a nearly $1.4 million year-over-year decline from 2017’s $38.9 million. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck took second place, at $31 million, followed by BGR Group ($27 million), Squire Patton Boggs and Holland & Knight (both $24 million).
Conservative groups saw their lobbying spending grow by a whopping 78 percent last year, while liberal groups’ spending shrank by 35 percent, according to the report. Top conservative spenders included Tea Party-affiliated FreedomWorks, followed by CPAC organizer the American Conservative Union, the Heritage Foundation, the Opportunity Solutions Project and the Clean Affordable Reliable Electricity Coalition.
George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center saw the greatest year-over-year gains, spending $31.5 million last year, nearly double its 2017 expenditures of $16.1 million. Other noted liberal-affiliated spenders were the People for the American Way, America’s Voice, Center for American Progress and Demand Progress.
Data for Center for Responsive Politics’ report was supplied by the Senate Office of Public Records and was published on the non-profit’s online database, OpenSecrets.org.