Number of Registered Lobbyists Falls 14% in 2017

Washington monument flooding drain the swamp (Mark Wilson / Getty)
Mark Wilson / Getty

The number of federally registered political lobbyists has fallen by 14 percent thus far in 2017 from the 2016 total.

However, based on data provided by the non-partisan OpenSecrets.org, spending by lobbyists is on track to rise by about 3 percent in 2017.

Mark Twain famously wrote: “We have the best government that money can buy.” That seemed to be the case in the Obama presidency, as registered lobbyists set an all-time spending record for any president of $26.7 billion, averaging over $3.3 billion a year.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has led the lobbying charge for globalization, was the top spender in 2016, and is again the top spender so far in 2017.

The National Association of Realtors was the runner-up in lobbying, spending $64,821,111 in 2016. The next four highest spenders, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield; American Hospital Association; Pharmaceutical Industry; and the American Medical Association each spent an average of about $22 million on lobbying in 2016.

No industry ramped up lobbying faster during the eight years of Obama than the Internet companies. From spending $14,858,398 on lobbying in the last year of President George W. Bush’s administration in 2008, Internet company lobbying expense quadrupled to $58,246,641 in 2016.

The major corporate lobbying increases seem to be coming out of Silicon Valley. Google (Alphabet Inc.) is on track to spend a bit more this year than the $15,430,000 it spent last year. Google has dominated tech lobbying in each of the last six years, as the company relentlessly battled for “Net Neutrality” regulation and taxation of the Internet.

Correction: an earlier version of this article overstated the drop in lobbying expenditures based on a mistaken assumption that OpenSecrets’ latest report reflected spending through May 16 and not through the first quarter alone, and an errant reading of first-quarter figures for 2017.

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