In a groundbreaking disclosure by OpenSecrets, lobbying expenditures at state and federal levels have collectively surpassed $46 billion since 2015, with federal lobbying alone reaching a record $4.2 billion in 2023. This revelation underscores the escalating scale of efforts to influence public policy in the United States.
The year 2023 saw state lobbying expenses exceed $1.4 billion, and with varying deadlines and reporting requirements across states, this figure is expected to rise. Notably, each quarter of 2023 witnessed federal lobbying spending exceeding $1 billion, driven primarily by appropriations bills and legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act.
This surge in lobbying is not confined to the federal level. Amidst congressional gridlock, corporations and special interest groups have expanded their influence operations to state-level officials, increasingly becoming pivotal in national discussions on issues like gun control and abortion rights.
The year 2022 set a precedent with $5.9 billion in total lobbying expenditure, reflecting a trend in the health sector’s predominant spending, which began in 2019. Since then, the health sector has spent over $6.8 billion in lobbying. In 2023, it led the lobbying expenses with federal spending of $739 million.
Pharmaceutical companies also continued to dominate lobbying at both state and federal levels, facing increased scrutiny in recent times. The top clients in this sector have consistently been engaged in lobbying activities, employing different firms for state and federal advocacy.
State lobbying is characterized by in-house lobbyists and firms dedicated to state-level work, often concentrating their efforts in states where they have established strong connections and understanding of policy-making intricacies. Conversely, federal lobbying typically involves firms and lobbyists with ties to federal regulators and policymakers.
Other sectors, including air transport, have significantly ramped up their federal lobbying efforts, with the transportation sector spending $308 million in 2023. This was a notable increase, largely driven by debates over Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce remains the top lobbying spender since 2015, with over $746 million in total spending, including over $69 million in federal lobbying in 2023 alone. The National Association of Realtors followed closely, spending over $52 million on federal lobbying last year.
At the state level, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians was the top spender in 2023, with approximately $12.8 million in lobbying expenses in California. Similarly, Verizon and other major corporations like Amazon, AT&T, and Chevron have spent millions on both federal and state-level lobbying.
The Southern Group, focusing on southern U.S. states, and Capital City Consulting, operating solely in Florida, were among the top state-level lobbying firms. Ballard Partners, another notable firm, gained national prominence during former President Donald Trump’s administration.
The comprehensive analysis of state and federal lobbying spending has been made possible by the 2021 merger of the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics. However, limited disclosure in some states still obscures the full extent of lobbying efforts, highlighting the need for greater transparency in this pivotal aspect of American politics.