"Schoolhouse Rock" can teach children how a bill is turned to law in Congress, but it leaves out an important step in the process—lobbying. Lobbying comprises organised attempts to influence the government by persuading political leaders to create legislation beneficial to the lobbyists. Corporations and associations use lobbying to advance their interests or amplify the voices of their shareholders and members.
Based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Stacker created a list of the corporations and groups that have spent the most money in Washington on lobbying since 1998. In 2018 alone, these groups have already spent millions of dollars trying to get bills on health care and music streaming turned to law. The expenditure reports are from the Senate Office of Public Records and include data between 1998 and 2018. The 2018 totals are through July 24.
From the company producing helicopters and missiles to the provider of your home’s internet service, corporations are spending big money in Washington to get their issues on the legislature’s floor.
Read on to find out who is spending how much and which issues receive the most lobbyist money. We begin with a telecommunications company in Philadelphia.
Total expenditure: $190,244,323
2018 expenditure: $7,782,000
Comcast Corporation is a telecommunications industry leader located in Pennsylvania. The corporation owns NBCUniversal and Xfinity. Their main lobbying issues included telecommunications, radio and TV broadcasting, and tax issues.
Total expenditure: $192,425,200
2018 expenditure: $4,910,000
Altria Group is a leading producer of tobacco in the United States. The company owns Philip Morris USA and Nu Mark. The group’s lobbying spending is about a third of what it was in the late 1990s, but Altria continues to push for issues related to tobacco and taxes.
Total expenditure: $217,270,694
2018 expenditure: $6,360,000
Southern Company is an electric and gas utility company based in Georgia. They run Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Southern Gas Company, Virginia Natural Gas, and Southern Nuclear, among others. Through July 2018, Southern Company has spent more than $6 million on lobbying for issues such as the environment, energy, and nuclear power.
Total expenditure: $220,946,490
2018 expenditure: $4,259,701
Edison Electric Institute represents a number of U.S. electric companies. The group’s annual lobbying expenditures have decreased since 2012, but they remain active around issues of energy and nuclear power. They were supportive of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which became a law in 2018.
Total expenditure: $222,548,000
2018 expenditure: $7,470,000
The National Association of Broadcasters is a trade organization representing radio and television broadcasters on issues such as communications monopolies and music licensing. The group has spent nearly $7.5 million in 2018 on radio and TV broadcasting issues, such as an act to increase the pay singers receive from royalties.
Total expenditure: $239,617,043
2018 expenditure: $6,720,000
Verizon Communications lobbies in the telecommunications and internet industries. While telecommunications is their main issue, Verizon has also advocated on issues of taxes, specifically the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Total expenditure: $243,266,644
2018 expenditure: $10,514,000
AT&T Inc. owns businesses such as DirecTV and Cricket Wireless. In 2018, the telecommunications company has spent more than $10.5 million on lobbying, specifically on the movie, telecom, and telephone industries. They supported the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2017, which has been passed by the House and aims to simplify income taxes for employees working across state lines.
Total expenditure: $248,544,779
2018 expenditure: $6,806,111
Lockheed Martin produces aerospace and security technology through companies such as Sikorsky Aircraft. They are particularly interested in issues of defense and how the U.S. government budget is spent. For example, Lockheed Martin supported the Military Construction Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 and the Department of Defense Appropriations Act in 2019.
Total expenditure: $249,462,742
2018 expenditure: $5,870,000
Exxon Mobil has spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on lobbying, mostly on issues related to the oil and gas industry. They were supportive of the 2018 tax cut, and their former CEO Rex Tillerson served as secretary of state under President Donald Trump for just over a year.
Total expenditure: $264,302,213
2018 expenditure: $8,950,000
Northrop Grumman developes aerospace and defense technology, specifically military weapons. The company was supportive of the military spending bills and defense issues, spending almost $9 million on lobbying so far this year.
Total expenditure: $267,223,310
2018 expenditure: $7,540,000
Apart from aircrafts, Boeing also produces missiles and helicopters. Their lobbying efforts focus on the aerospace defense industry with issues such as defense and military spending topping their list.
Total expenditure: $272,280,000
2018 expenditure: $11,320,000
Business Roundtable is a group of CEOs who advocate for pro-business policies. Members include leaders from 21st Century Fox, Cisco, Morgan Stanley, and Xerox. In 2018, the group has lobbied on a diverse number of issues, such as trade, transportation, and immigration. They supported the 2018 tax cut and extending health insurance to children in need.
Total expenditure: $278,741,064
2018 expenditure: $4,410,000
AARP advocates on issues for Americans older than age 50. So far in 2018, the group has spent nearly $4.5 million on lobbying for the tax cut and increased medical care for the elderly.
Total expenditure: $335,772,616
2018 expenditure: $11,822,346
Blue Cross Blue Shield spent more than $24 million on lobbying in 2017. The health insurance organization insures more than 100 million Americans and is interested in Congressional issues related to health care, including Medicare and Medicaid.
Total expenditure: $352,102,800
2018 expenditure: $15,717,500
Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America represents pharmaceutical companies, such as Amgen, Merck, and Pfizer. So far the group has spent $15.7 million on lobbying in 2018 on issues related to health care, pharmacy regulation, and Medicare and Medicaid.
Total expenditure: $356,452,000
2018 expenditure: $2,640,000
General Electric is a conglomerate with subsidiaries in the health care, electric, and transportation industries. While their lobbying efforts have been minimal in 2018, they still take interest in issues such as defense spending and tax cuts.
Total expenditure: $359,882,837
2018 expenditure: $11,364,864
The American Hospital Association lobbies for issues related to the U.S. health care system. They have spent $11.3 million in 2018 to influence decisions around health, Medicare and Medicaid, and how the federal budget is spent. They have supported bills related to opioid abuse, rural hospital access, and the extension of Medicare.
Total expenditure: $384,017,500
2018 expenditure: $11,260,000
The American Medical Association represents physicians on issues related to the U.S. medical system. The focus of the $11.2 million spent in 2018 has been on health issues and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as immigration.
Total expenditure: $497,969,707
2018 expenditure: $27,330,272
The National Association of Realtors represents people working in the U.S. real estate industry. Their main lobbying issues are real estate, finance, and taxes. They have lobbied for bills in 2018 regarding flood preparedness and housing-related loans.
Total expenditure: $1,455,025,680
2018 expenditure: $43,700,000
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the leading lobbyist in Washington, having spent $43.7 million in 2018 and almost $1.5 billion since 1998. The lobbying group is not associated with the U.S. government. Their focus of influence lies on finance issues, as well as torts, law enforcement, and taxes.