First quarter doldrums hit lobbying outlays for most, but pharmaceutical industry bucks the trend
by Will Tucker on April 27, 2016
Lobbying clients overall apparently weren’t looking to burst out of the gate in 2016, but some of the biggest companies in the pharmaceutical industry pushed the pedal to the floor.
Lobbying spending by companies and interest groups in the first three months of 2016 — the last year of an eight-year presidential administration that made it harder for lobbyists to move in and out of the executive branch — remained at virtually the same level as the previous quarter, increasing slightly from $798 milliion reported in January to $805 million reported this month. The growth was about average for the first quarter of a given year over the final quarter of the one before.
A look back over several years, however, indicates spending by interests looking to have a say in Washington policymaking may continue its year-over-year slide into 2016. Companies and interest groups spent three percent less in the first quarter of 2016 than they did in the first quarter of 2015 — the biggest first-quarter drop since 2013, when lobbying spending dropped four percent from the last quarter of 2012.
That year, overall lobbying spending wound up falling 2 percent from 2012. The Center for Responsive Politics collects the data from quarterly lobbying reports filed to the House and Senate by clients and registrants.
The drop didn’t help the top 10 lobbying firms. Only three of the 10 firms with the highest billings figures saw their revenues from federal clients fatten over last quarter. Williams and Jensen saw a 10 percent increase in billings; bigger names, like Akin Gump and Brownstein Hyatt, slumped. BGR Group fell out of the top 10 completely.
As in previous quarters, Podesta Group saw a modest increase in billings while its peers saw declines. The firm’s co-founder, John Podesta, now chairs former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign.
Perhaps logically, most industries reported paying less for lobbying. While 38 industries paid more to lobby the federal government last quarter than they had between October and December 2015, 47 reported lower outlays. Five industries, including education and gun rights, spent about the same amount.
Leading the growth category were the pharmaceuticals, crop production, and pro-abortion policy interest groups industries. Drugmakers spent more than $11 million more as an industry than they did during the fourth quarter of 2015, an increase of about 21 percent.
As the industry takes fire for rising drug prices, a few big drug makers all upped their outlays by more than $1 million. GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Novartis AG increased their lobbying spending by 178 percent on average, while the powerful industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America increased its spending by $2 million to nearly $6 million — an increase of 52 percent.
All told, GlaxoSmithKline spent $1.5 million, Pfizer spent $3.4 million and Novartis spent $3.1 million.
Each of the three companies lobbied on one of the hottest bills of the quarter, the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed the House last year. Among other things, it authorizes funding for the National Institutes of Health — but a more controversial portion of the bill would streamline the drug approval process. In all, 243 clients lobbied on the bill, which the Senate has appeared to be in no hurry to consider.
Senior Researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report.
Originally published at www.opensecrets.org on April 27, 2016.