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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Staff, Lobbyists, and Taxes

Casey Burgat at The Washington Examiner:
Lobbyist influence on legislation is nothing new. However, the sheer volume of lobbyists involved in the tax overhaul dwarfed Congress’ own resources. According to a recent report by government watchdog group Public Citizen, 6,243 registered lobbyists can be found on lobbying disclosure forms involving taxation issues this year alone. This total represents 57 percent of all 2017 registered domestic lobbyists – more than 11 lobbyists per member of Congress. Over 4,200 of these lobbyists indicated that their work was specific to ‘tax reform.’

So, then, how did Congress’ staffing resources stack up, particularly on committees that house the issue-area expertise to advise lawmakers on tax issues?

In 2016, the Senate Finance Committee – the committee with jurisdiction over tax-related issues – and the Joint Committee on Taxation each employed 65 congressional aides to assist lawmakers in understanding, drafting and interpreting tax provisions. These 65 Senate Finance aides represent the lowest number of aides on the committee since 2002, down nearly 21 percent (from 82 aides) just two years prior and 37 percent (from 89 aides) from 2009.

This amounts to just 130 congressional aides versus as many as 6,200 lobbyists, many of whom represent such specific interest and push for such concentrated benefits that congressional staffers can’t possibly track or assess the impacts of each of their pet proposals. It's not a fair fight — not even close.