Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BREAKING! Lobbying dries up and disappears in the new administration


From the DC Examiner:

Early numbers suggest that the first quarter of 2009 has seen lobbying in the nation’s capital spike by nearly 22 percent over last year, which would be the largest ever increase in lobbying activity — and a strong indication that President Barack Obama has helped usher in a Golden Era for K Street.

Between Jan. 1 and March 16 this year, the Senate Office of Public Records received 1,381 new lobbying registrations, which include new lobbying firms, new clients at existing firms, and businesses hiring their first lobbyists. This is the largest batch of new registrations since 1999, the first year these records were kept, and a 21.7 percent increase over last year.

If you subtract the lobbying accounts that have been terminated, you get a net gain in active lobbying accounts this year of 1,252, which represents a surge of 13.5 percent over last year’s growth of 1,103 net lobbying accounts in the same period.
The number of active lobbying accounts is not the only measure of lobbying activity — dollars spent is probably the most important number, but first-quarter figures on that won’t be available until late April. The first quarter, of course, has two weeks remaining, and 76 days is a small sample size, but the bump in new registrations is significant enough to support anecdotal evidence that Obama’s ambitious agenda and breakneck pace are a major boon to the very industry he ran against.

The $787 billion stimulus bill, which was the largest spending bill in U.S. history, and the $410 billion fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill, which was larded with 8,750 earmarks, attracted thousands of lobbyists in search of pet programs and earmarks. This column reported on dozens of town, city, county and state governments or government agencies hiring new lobbyists this winter — an effort to grab a share of the trillion dollars in spending on the table.

Obama doesn’t deserve full responsibility, however. From 1999 to 2007, federal lobbying spending grew by an average rate of 8 percent a year. From 2007 to 2008, the amount of lobbying accelerated, with spending growing by a record 14 percent, even with the recession and the election putting a damper on fourth-quarter lobbying activity. If lobbying spending grew by 14 percent last year with flat growth in net new accounts in the spring, what will this spring’s boom in new accounts yield?
Reading through the new registrations, three growth sectors seem to be driving the lobbying boom: municipalities, alternative energy and Democratic firms picking up corporate clients.

Towns, cities, counties and states (some as small as Cordova, Alaska, population 2,251) bought into K Street this year, mostly seeking stimulus funding. Will these local governments terminate their lobbyists this year, or — as often occurs — will they continue seeking favors now that they’ve got a taste of Washington largess? If the latter occurs, the Obama lobbying boom will be of unprecedented magnitude.

But, of course, all the lobbyists inside the administration will keep that from happening, right?

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