Big changes in Lobbying from Big Changes in Congress:
With the Republican Party taking the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, lobbying dollars will shift to areas such as health and energy to reflect GOP priorities says Martin Milita of Duane Morris Government Strategies. The Republican Party won control of the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s midterm elections, taking seats held by Democratic incumbents in several key battleground states to secure the majority after holding onto and increasing its presence in the the U.S. House of Representatives earlier in the evening.
The GOP had needed to reel in six seats to retake the Senate following eight years of Democratic control, and by late Tuesday had done just that in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia to push them to victory.
Expectations that the next Congress may have a hard time getting legislation passed because of the “threat of a White House veto, or may otherwise pursue an unambitious agenda”, should see lobbying spending shift away from routine “monitoring and reporting” efforts; “ lobbyist will rather focus on winning support for major projects and legislation, resulting in a potential boon for established, well-connected firms”, Milita said.
This will include large law firm lobbying arms, such as Duane Morris Government Strategies. Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals have worked for members of Congress, congressional and state committees, and presidential and gubernatorial transition teams. Also at Duane Morris Government Strategies disposal are hundreds of seasoned attorneys from the Duane Morris law firm who have handled complex legal issues in the public and private sectors across a multitude of industries.
“Particular industries, such as the energy industry and the defense industry, could also ramp up their spending to reflect perceived and stated GOP legislative priorities- like pressing for approval of the contentious Keystone XL crude oil pipeline” says Milita.
Milita went on to say, “Health care companies are especially likely to drive a tremendous amount of activity under a GOP-majority Senate, with likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expected to support a push to revisit aspects of the Affordable Care Act”.
DMGS clients’ included retailers and manufacturers, professional associations, municipalities, health care and pharmaceutical companies, transportation and oil companies, universities, and financial services firms, many of them in the top echelons of their respective industries.
According to Milita, the change in Senate majority is the sort of “realigning election” that typically ushers in an increase in lobbying spending in general, with both Republican and Democratic incumbents continuing to see significant lobbying spending directed at them. Meanwhile, lobbying firms and their clients will also be reaching out to newly elected senators, Milita says.
“It’s an great opportunity for those who get in first to communicate with new members,” he said.
More importantly, lobbying clients will seek to direct spending to secure or reinforce ties with new committee and caucus leaders, who hold significant influence over the legislation that will reach the Senate floor — efforts that in some cases can be like “starting anew,” Milita said.
“This is a fundamental change … clients have to start all over again in trying to establish relationships,” he said.
Despite some anti-lobbying rhetoric from the Obama administration, congressional lobbying spending has remained at a relatively stable, high level for a number of years, after ramping up during the 2000s, according to Allard.
Total federal congressional lobbying spending has remained about $3.3 billion for each of the past three years, after peaking around $3.5 billion in both 2009 and 2010, according to figures collated by the Center for Responsive Politics from Lobbying Disclosure Act-mandated filings. Spending first jumped to about $3.3 billion in 2008, from just under $2.9 billion in 2007, following a decade of steady year-on-year increases.
The largest industry sector for congressional lobbying spending in 2013 was finance, insurance and real estate, at just under $490 million, with the health industry close behind at a little more than $487 million. Communications and technology firms were next on the list, spending close to $394 million. Energy and other natural resources firms spent just more than $359 million, outspending the next nearest industry — transportation — by more than $130 million, CRP-collated figures show.
While its overall spending levels and relative positions within the group have changed over the past decade, this group of four industries has remained, as a bloc, the biggest lobbying spenders over that period.
But even these lofty figures don’t capture the full picture, Milita said. With much legislation around the world now having cross-border impacts, the increasing globalization of advocacy efforts is one of the most fundamental recent changes to the lobbying industry, and it is not reflected in federal LDA filings, the usual tracking tool, he said.
“The fact is, a lot is spent on lobbying, and that will continue,” he said. “The demand for expert advocacy will continue as government’s influence on our lives continues.”