- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Spending on lobbying in Washington last year hit its highest mark in nearly a decade, reaching almost $3.5 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The $3.47 billion spent in 2019 was the most since 2010, when lobbyists tallied $3.51 billion, according to the center’s evaluation of lobbying disclosures. The big spending last year came even as the ranks of registered lobbyists dropped more than 1,000 from 2010.

Lobbying spending shrank after President Obama’s first term and has steadily increased during each year of President Trump’s administration.

One big reason for the uptick last year was the government funding impasse at the end of the year, said Marc Lampkin, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck managing partner in Washington. Mr. Lampkin’s firm grossed the most federal lobbying revenue of any lobbying shop in the final three months of the year, raking in more than $40.7 million.

“The biggest thing that always drives these kind of years is the big spending bills at the end of the year,” Mr. Lampkin said. “The spending bills become vehicles to carry other measures.”

While the budget brinkmanship might not be good for the country — the Congressional Budget Office projected Tuesday that the federal deficit will reach $1 trillion this year — the spending fight at the end of 2019 was a boon for lobbyists.

The health industry has lobbied the most every year since 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, while the issue commanding the greatest number of registered lobbyists and clients was the federal budget and appropriations process.

Among the drivers of the newest surge in lobbying spending are drug pricing legislation, trade and tariff issues, and one of the newer factors: Big Tech.

Facebook spent more on lobbying — $17 million — than any other company last year, according to a Politico analysis.

The lobbying focus on Big Tech does not look likely to slow anytime soon. Mr. Lampkin said he thought behemoths such as Amazon, Facebook and Google would face more scrutiny as smaller technology companies and consumer groups grow more critical and advocate in Washington.

While Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial and the 2020 election might foster an unwelcome environment for federal lobbyists this year, Mr. Lampkin said he believes there is a window of time before the campaign season hits full swing when lawmakers will want to show they can govern in a post-impeachment Washington.

He said to expect to see issues such as drug prices, infrastructure and multiemployer pension reform that affect electoral battleground states become the attention of lawmakers and lobbyists alike.

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