Buying Influence: Pharma, Utilities and Big Ag Lead Lobbying in 2012
This campaign finance update is re-posted from OpenSecrets.
Pharmaceuticals, utilities and big agriculture have led the lobbying charge so far this year, according to preliminary figures from latest lobbying disclosures. The pharmaceutical industry as a whole spent $69.6 million on lobbying in the first three months alone, while electrical utilities spent $43.3 million. The agricultural services industry – which includes heavy hitters like Monsanto, the American Farm Bureau and Archer Daniels Midland – spent far less, only about $12.9 million, but that represented a 48 percent increase over its lobbying in the final three months of 2011.
Overall, the ebb and flow of industries on our list of top lobbyists was dictated by the legislative calendar. While all these groups regularly rank highly in terms of their spending, they all had particular battles early in 2012.
The farm bill, the sprawling piece of legislation that sets the tone (and subsidies) every five years for the agriculure and food industry, is up for reauthorization this year — giving the agriculture industry a lot to talk to legislators about. The American Farm Bureau spent $6 million in the first three months of the year, a bit more than it spent in the entirety of 2011. That pushed the organization, which is the largest trade group for the industry, into fourth position on our list of top lobbying clients so far this year.
It’s difficult to tell exactly how much an industry or company spends lobbying on a particular bill — most big companies have a laundry list of interests — but the pharmaceutical industry clearly focused on protecting the existing provisions of Medicare Part D, which subsidizes the cost of drugs. Critics in Congress have targeted the program for its huge cost, and some want it to be more transparent about how reimbursements are set. Also at issue is whether the government should be able to negotiate drug prices with the companies, something that is currently prohibited.
At the forefront of the pharmaceutical firms’ lobbying push was PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America), the industry trade group, which has spent $5.2 million so far this year. If that rate is sustained, PhRMA will top its 2009 total – when it fought hard over healthcare reform and spent $26.1 million. Following right behind the trade group was Merck, which has spent $4.5 million so far this year, more than half of its total spending in all of last year.
The $43.3 million that electric utilities spent lobbying makes it the second-biggest spending industry, but the number represents only a 12 percent increase over last quarter’s lobbying. The dominant issue for most of the big utilities – like Southern Company (which accounted for nearly 10 percent of the entire industry’s lobbying expenses with $4 million spent so far this year) — is the EPA’s plan to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases. Since the plan is on hold while details are worked out, the big utilities have all had a chance to make their voices heard with lawmakers on new bills that would kill the EPA’s power to regulate in this area.
To see a full list of the top industries and how they’ve lobbied Washington in the first three months of 2012, explore our industry lobbying page. Or, check out our top spenders page, to see a list of top organizations and how much they spent on lobbying so far in 2012 (spoiler: once again, the No. 1 organization, by far, is the Chamber of Commerce).