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DECEMBER 3, 1998   8:00 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Center for Responsive Politics
Allan Shuldiner or Paul Hendrie 202/857-0044
 
Pharmaceutical, Insurance Industries Lead Way In Lobbying Spending; New Study Provides Comprehensive Look at Washington's $1.26 billion Influence Industry
 
WASHINGTON - December 3 - Pharmaceutical and health products manufacturers led all industries in lobbying expenditures during 1997 at $74.4 million, followed by insurance ($65.9 million), telephone utilities ($62.1 million), oil and gas ($62 million), electric utilities ($54.3 million), and health professionals ($43.2 million), a comprehensive new report by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics reveals.

Influence Inc.: Lobbyist Spending in Washington, provides the most revealing picture yet of the industries and interest groups that fund and deploy the army of lobbyists that is such an important fixture of political life in Washington.

The study found that interest groups spent $1.26 billion - or roughly $2.4 million per member of Congress - during 1997, the last full year for which data are available.

The report breaks new ground by providing the first systematic look at lobbying patterns by industry and economic sector, as well as a side- by-side look at political contributions. There are individual profiles of each industry that include a list of the top 10 spenders on lobbying during 1997 and a synopsis of the industry's legislative agenda.

Among other highlights of the report:

  • The financial sector (finance, insurance, and real estate) led the way both in lobbying expenditures ($177.1 million in 1997) and campaign contributions ($93 million in the first 18 months of 1997-98) among the 13 broad economic sectors. The health sector was second in lobbying expenditures ($158.5 million) and sixth in campaign contributions ($34 million).
  • Some 218 organizations spent at least $1 million in 1997 to lobby Congress and the executive branch, including 41 that spent at least $5 million and eight that spent at least $10 million.
  • A total of 101 lobbying firms reported at least $1 million in income during 1997. Topping the list at $18.8 million was the law firm Verner, Lipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand, which employs former Senate Majority Leaders Robert Dole and George Mitchell. Some $10.3 million of the firm's revenue came from just five clients - all tobacco companies.
  • The organization that spent the most on lobbying during 1997 was the American Medical Association ($17.3 million), which has been fighting to ease restrictions that managed health care plans often put on doctors.
  • Lobbying expenditures tended to fluctuate during the course of the year, depending upon the timing of events and flow of legislation and regulation. For example, the American Automobile Manufacturers Association spent $2.7 million on lobbying during the first half of 1997, but $7.3 million during the last six months, as global warming treaty negotiations that affect the industry were about to gear up.
  • Some organizations that do not show up on the rankings of top campaign contributors - such as the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. and the Business Roundtable - rank high on the list of lobbying spenders. Generally, these are trade organizations, whose members make political contributions individually.
  • Membership organizations that are generally thought to pack considerable lobbying clout on Capitol Hill, like the American Association of Retired Persons, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the National Rifle Association, and the Sierra Club, as well as labor unions, tended to fall far down the list of lobbying spenders. These groups can flex their muscle in Washington without paying for large contingents of expensive lobbyists by mobilizing their active memberships.

"What is new here is that for the first time we can now put dollar signs on the total cost of this massive effort," said Larry Makinson, the Center's executive director. "We can also tell, again for the first time, which industries and interest groups are the heaviest spenders, and we can compare lobbyist expenditures with campaign contributions - for a particular company, industry, or an entire economic sector."

The report is based on disclosures filed with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. The records were hand entered by Center researchers and coded using the system the Center has pioneered in its study of campaign contributions to categorize organizations by industry and sector.

The undertaking highlighted the limitations of the lobbying reporting system. Although the 1995 law requires the House and Senate disclosure offices to develop "computerized systems to minimize filing burdens and maximize public access," registrants still cannot file their reports electronically and the public still does not have access via the Internet. The Senate disclosure office has shelved until late 1999 plans to put the lobbying database on the Internet. Meanwhile, the office will not provide its computerized database to members of the public or research organizations like the Center, forcing researchers to do their own data entry from microfilm copies of the original filings.

In addition to the report, the Center will post the entire 1997 lobbyist database in searchable form at www.crp.org on Thursday, Dec. 3, 1998.

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The Center for Responsive Politics is a non- profit, non-partisan research organization in Washington, D.C. that specializes in the study of Congress and particularly the role that money plays in its elections and actions. The Center produces original studies and provides custom, computer-assisted campaign finance research for news organizations and others. The Center is funded by major foundation grants. Our address on the World Wide Web is www.crp.org .

 
 

 

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