U.S. lobbyists raked in a record $3.7 billion in revenue last year from companies, labor unions, and special-interest groups, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. This 6% growth compared to 2020 came after a tepid increase in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several spending packages have been introduced in 2021, including a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package and $1.9 trillion in federal spending on pandemic relief. This led the private sector into a mad dash to grab pieces of both pies. (There are also government-owned companies. Here are 14 big businesses run by the U.S. government.)
Industries fearful of policy changes, such as a proposal to restart taxes on chemical manufacturers to help pay for the cleanup of the country’s most polluted sites, helped boost lobbying spending last year. Similarly, calls to increase regulatory scrutiny of the Big Tech also had companies lobbying hard.
To find the 20 companies and interest groups that spent the most to lobby the government in 2021, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed OpenSecrets data on Top Spenders. Companies — lobbying clients — were ranked based on their total lobbying expenditures in 2021. Net income figures for the latest fiscal year came from company security filings or nonprofit newsroom ProPublica.
The 20 organizations on the list spent $434.3 million on lobbying in 2021, or about 12% of all lobbying spending last year. Many of the biggest spenders are organizations that represent special interest groups, such as manufacturers or pharmaceuticals. Seven of the 20 biggest spenders are companies, including defense contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
Five of the top 20 spenders are involved in health care, and four of them are focused on telecommunications, broadband, and broadcasting. Two groups — the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — pursue favorable legislative treatment for corporations. (In addition to lobbying, companies also help support candidates. Here are companies bankrolling congress members who didn’t certify the election.)
The pharmaceutical, chemical, biotech, and manufacturing industries have their own special interest groups on this list. Amazon.com and Meta (formerly Facebook) spent the most on directly lobbying. The National Association of Realtors reported the highest net income of the special interest groups.