Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lobbying

The Center for Responsive Politics reports:

In all, federal lobbyists’ clients spent more than $3.47 billion last year, often driven to Washington, D.C.’s power centers and halls of influence by political issues central to the age: health care reform, financial reform, energy policy.

That figure represents a more than 5 percent increase over $3.3 billion worth of federal lobbying recorded in 2008, the previous all-time annual high for lobbying expenditures. And it comes in a year when a recession persisted, the dollar’s value against major foreign currencies declined and joblessness rates increased.

The lobby database is available here.

The Center reports lobby spending in current dollars, that is, not adjusted for inflation. In 1999, total lobby spending was $1.43 billion. But in 2009 dollars (as one may calculate with the Consumer Price Index), the figure was $1.84 billion. Even with this adjustment, however, spending has nearly doubled over the past decade.

It may seem paradoxical that lobbying is up under a president who has vowed to curb lobbyist influence. But the administration has stepped up federal spending and regulation, which means that interest groups naturally step up their own efforts to influence where the money goes and how the rules work. As Gary Andres writes in Lobbying Reconsidered: Under the Influence, "Probably the only way to get fewer lobbyists in the system is to significantly cut back on the size of government -- a difficult and unlikely prescription."