Draining The Swamp? 2017 Lobbying Numbers Are In And They’re… YUGE

After giving a speech in Des Moines on the day he declared himself a Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump grants Brent Roske a quick interview in the crowded lobby at Hoyt Sherman Place. 6/16/2016 Photo by John Pemble

One of Donald Trump’s most memorable promises before assuming the presidency was he would drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.

But if an analysis of 2017 lobbying expenditures by some of the country’s biggest interests is any indicator, Trump’s first year in office has mostly served to fatten the swamp creatures inhabiting the Beltway by provoking massive amounts of corporate spending on lobbyists.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

According to The Hill, one of the biggest spending sectors has been tech, which dropped a gargantuan $58 million on lobbying. Some of this has been to deal with ongoing issues arising out of the Russia probe, but in the case of the biggest tech spender—Google—it appears $18 million was dropped to combat efforts to strengthen property rights, preserve net neutrality, and bat back rising concerns from conservatives about the search engine behemoth’s failure to prioritize and safeguard its users’ privacy.

According to Politico, however, Google’s total 2017 spending still came in $4 million below the amount spent by the National Association of Realtors in just the fourth quarter of 2017.

Unsurprisingly, the Realtors were engaging heavily on the recent tax bill passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump, which makes changes to the mortgage interest deduction and state and local property tax (SALT) provisions. Many of the changes proposed by the GOP as part of the tax reform proposal were heavily opposed by realtors, who were concerned they could diminish sale prices on real estate, which has the knock-on effect of diminishing commissions for members of the Realtors’ trade association.


Another big spender in the bottom of 2017 was George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center, which dropped more than $10 million in the last three months.

PhRMA, the advocacy organization for drugmakers, also spent $5.9 million in the fourth quarter. Throughout 2017 as a whole, the organization dropped 30 percent more on lobbying than in 2016, a cool $25.4 million according to The Hill. PhRMA and a number of its members have been locked in a variety of policy fights over drug pricing, with President Trump being seen as a major threat for his bashing of high drug prices, and many Republican Members of Congress also in PhRMA’s sights for attempting to defend a drug discount program (340B) that benefits many Republican base voters in rural, red states.

Rounding out the top five spenders in the last three months of the year, in spots #2, 3 and 5, respectively, were the Business Roundtable, which heavily engaged on tax reform, the Chamber of Commerce—a continual, large lobbying presence in Washington, D.C.—and the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an entity typically involved in tort reform issues on which there has been relative radio silence in recent months, potentially raising questions about the purpose of the lobbying.


Politico further reports that for virtually all of the top 20 lobbying firms in D.C., revenues were significantly higher in 2017 than in 2016. At Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, evidently the highest revenue firm in D.C., 2017 brought in $38.8 million as opposed to a mere $36.4 million in 2016.


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