Top Lobbying Spenders Pull Back, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Is Tops

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Minn. Department of Health

The top 10 lobbying spenders in the third quarter of 2015 reported paying lobbyists about $23 million less than the second quarter’s top 10 spenders did, the latest records show. In the second quarter, the top 10 spenders reported nearly $89 million in outlays, compared to almost $66 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 — a drop of about 25 percent.

Eight of the top 10 spenders between April 1 and June 30 reported spending less in the third quarter to lobby the federal government. Among those, only Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the National Association of Manufacturers increased their outlays — from $5.4 million to $6.3 million and $4.8 million to $6 million, respectively. The slide coincides with a slump in lobbying firms’ revenues reported by The Hill.

With the House Republican leadership in turmoil and this season’s version of the debt ceiling debate sucking the oxygen out of other policy discussions, it wasn’t an easy quarter to try to influence Congress. Legislative battles of interest to the biggest spenders slog on, from Export-Import Bank reauthorization (a major focus of Boeing and General Electric, which both fell out of the top 10) to the Trans-Pacific Partnership– an agreement with which the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America wasn’t entirely happy, despite the trade group’s considerable lobbying on the issue for years.

Boeing and General Electric shot up the ranks in the second quarter as Ex-Im’s charter expired, mounting a major push to keep the bank alive. Ex-Im helps those companies finance exports to parts of the world where it would be risky to export otherwise. The Bank’s opponents say the companies, which aren’t exactly small businesses, should find lines of credit from the private sector.

But victory may be at hand for Ex-Im’s fans. The Senate voted 64-29 to attach the Bank’s reauthorization to a highway spending bill, but because that bill now sits in a House committee, the bipartisan group supporting the Bank in the upper chamber will try to force a vote on re-authorization, according to The Hill.

As for TPP, it overcame a major hurdle in June with the passage of Trade Promotion Authority, a bill that ensured Congress can’t amend the agreement’s text. Still, it must approve or reject the deal in its entirety, and there are plenty of interests that are unhappy with some of the details.

Elsewhere in the top 10, Blue Cross/Blue Shield increased lobbying outlays in its ongoing effort to influence Obamacare regulations and to weigh in on other issues like cyber-security and opioid abuse. The National Association of Manufacturers poured more resources into influencing environmental policies such as clean power plant regulations. President Barack Obama’s push for “historic carbon pollution standards for power plants” helped spur NAM to rise eight spots in the rankings of the third quarter’s biggest lobbying spenders.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association, which saw the biggest drop in outlays from the second quarter to the third, seemingly got what it came for in April. The AMA spent nearly the same amount in the first six months of 2015 as it did in all of 2014. Its big policy victory was the “doc fix” legislation that overhauled how doctors who accept Medicare patients get reimbursed by the federal program. Once a perennial can for Congress to kick down the road, the “doc fix” bill signed this year by President Obama made permanent changes, so there was little need for the AMA to keep lobbying on the issue.

And all along, the biggest spender in the third quarter of 2015 remained the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which saw its outlays dip slightly — by about $2 million.