Waning Influence of Lobbyists

Source: OpenSecrets.org, 2014

This is a series examining the years-long decline in both spending on lobbyists and the number of active lobbyists.

Waning Influence? Part 1: Tracking the “Unlobbyist”
Source: Dan Auble, OpenSecrets.org, March 18, 2014

Beginning in 2010, the Center for Responsive Politics documented a new trend in lobbying: the rise of the “unlobbyist.” The number of federally registered lobbyists who were active in a particular year began dropping in 2008 and has continued every year since. Our report last year showed that 46 percent of those who stopped lobbying in 2012 were actually still employed by the same firm. We argued that many of these ex-lobbyists simply shifted their job responsibilities slightly so as to avoid disclosure requirements and fly “under the radar.” Here, we’re extending our previous work. Through extensive research, we tracked the post-lobbying career paths of almost 1,800 registered, previously active lobbyists and found a similar pattern: Nearly half of them continued to work for the same companies — and some even still had job titles like “Director of Government Relations.” From these findings, it seems clear that lobbyists are not fleeing K Street in droves, but rather they are doing similar work for the same companies. Instead of doing it in the public eye, though, they have moved out of sight. …

Waning Influence, Part 2: Does Congressional Gridlock Lock Up K Street?
Source: Sarah Bryner, OpenSecrets.org, August 18, 2014

As the total amount of money spent on lobbying continues to fall, many analysts — including the staff at the Center for Responsive Politics — cite congressional gridlock as a cause of the decline. The 113th Congress, one of the least popular in history, is known for its apparent inability to pass legislation. Given the perceived ineffectiveness of Congress, it may be no surprise that the amount spent on lobbying – which is usually undertaken to influence members of the House and Senate — has declined. While a lobbying campaign could have resulted in the passage of a bill or a helpful earmark in the past, those who pay the lobbyists’ bills may find a gridlocked Congress to be an unappealing target. When faced with decisions about how to spend limited funds, clients may not be willing to gamble on Congress to come through for them. But the notion that lobbying dollars might flow more freely when Congress is passing many bills, though plausible, is untested. In this report, the second in our series documenting the decline in lobbying, we looked at whether the data actually supports the explanation that lobbying increases when Congress is productive. The results are a decidedly mixed bag. …