Total federal lobbying skyrocketed to $4.1 billion in 2022, a new OpenSecrets analysis of federal lobbying disclosures found. That’s a nominal record and the highest lobbying spending since 2010 when adjusted for inflation.
This isn’t the first time federal lobbying spending broke records in 2022. During the first quarter, federal lobbyists reported receiving $1 billion in real dollars for the first time ever in a single quarter. Federal lobbying spending skyrocketed past $1 billion again during the third quarter.
Federal lobbyists raked in nearly $1 billion during the fourth quarter as they cozied up to lawmakers around the midterm election and pressed their clients’ priorities during the “lame-duck” session.
K Street will have more access to lawmakers moving forward, as the Capitol reopened to the public when the 118th Congress kicked off on Jan. 3, The Hill reported. Lobbyists and House Republican leadership pressed Capitol Hill officials to end pandemic restrictions that limited physical access to lawmakers for nearly three years.
At least 13,784 organizations deployed 12,609 federal lobbyists throughout 2022. Last year’s most-lobbied congressional bill was the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which authorized, among other provisions, federal spending to reduce carbon emissions, lower healthcare costs and prescription drug prices, and expand tax assistance and enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service. President Joe Biden signed the landmark bill into law on Aug. 16, 2022.
The most lobbied bill during the fourth quarter was the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill Congress pushed to pass before the winter recess in late December. Lobbyists for 1,393 clients reported efforts to engage lawmakers on the end-of-year funding package.
The 10 clients that spent the most money on federal lobbying in 2022 accounted for 8.6% of all federal lobbying spending last year.
The National Association of Realtors, the largest trade association in the U.S. representing stakeholders in the real estate industry, spent $81.7 million on federal lobbying in 2022. That’s a marked increase from the $44 million the group spent on federal lobbying in 2021 even as its number of registered lobbyists remained at 42.
The group is one of more than 470 non-profits tracked by OpenSecrets that elect to use the broader definition of lobbying, which is part of the reason the top lobbying spenders list is dominated by trade groups.
“But the increased spending generally in 2022 supported NAR advocacy efforts both in Washington and around the country to protect private property rights, increase the supply of affordable housing, and ensure fair and equitable access to property ownership,” a National Association of Realtors spokesperson told OpenSecrets in a written statement. “This work reflects NAR’s broad mission of building strong communities, supporting the real estate economy (which makes up nearly 20% of the overall U.S. economy), promoting vibrant business environments, and securing the most efficient market possible for consumers.”
The trade association published a list of advocacy “wins” in October 2022, including removing almost a dozen tax increase provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act “through major efforts by NAR and its commercial real estate partners to educate Members of Congress on the unhealthy economic consequences of these proposals.” Lobbyists for the National Association of Realtors reported more instances of lobbying on the Inflation Reduction Act than any other bill in 2022.
Among other legislative wins, the National Association of Realtors also supported and helped secure a Republican co-sponsor for the bipartisan GREATER Revitalization of Shopping Centers Act of 2021, which would provide grants to develop under-utilized shopping centers.
The National Association of Realtors’ top advocacy priority in 2022 was affordable housing, a “multi-front effort” the group’s spokesperson told OpenSecrets will continue to be the focus advocacy efforts in 2023.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce paid federal lobbyists $81 million last year, up from $66.4 million spent on federal lobbying in 2021. The country’s largest lobbying organization advocates for American business interests and has recently criticized the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed rule to eliminate non-compete clauses as “blatantly unlawful.” The Chamber of Commerce also called the recent surge in legislative efforts to break up alleged monopolies “penalizing success” in its “America’s Antitrust Laws: Explained in 60 Seconds” video.
Chamber lobbyists reported more instances of lobbying against the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act — which would render pre-dispute arbitration agreements invalid or unenforceable if it requires arbitration on disputes related to employment, consumers, antitrust or civil rights — than any other bill in 2022.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce alleged the FAIR Act aims “to promote expensive class action litigation that does little to help businesses, consumers, and employees” that “serves principally to benefit the attorneys who file class action lawsuits.” Supporters of the bill argue it would prohibit corporations from forcing people into pre-dispute agreements often hidden in non-negotiable contracts with employees and consumers.
No overall industry spent more money on federal lobbying in 2022 than the pharmaceutical industry. The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, a trade group representing members of the pharmaceutical industry, was the largest individual lobbying spender in the industry.
PhRMA spent $29.2 million on federal lobbying, with lobbyists overwhelmingly reporting activity related to the Inflation Reduction Act that included provisions to lower the price of prescription drugs. The trade group repeatedly issued statements opposing the Inflation Reduction Act, warning the bill “puts in place an unprecedented government price setting system that jeopardizes access to medicines and future innovations.”
“Last year, we worked to advance solutions that would lower what patients pay out of pocket for prescription medicines, while opposing changes that would restrict access to lifesaving medicines, disrupt biopharmaceutical innovation and destroy jobs across the industry,” PhRMA spokesperson Sarah Sutton told OpenSecrets in a written statement. “We will continue to push for policies that serve the best interests of America’s patients and biopharmaceutical researchers.”
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is one of several firms hired to lobby on behalf of PhRMA. Akin Gump reported receiving a total of $53.2 million from clients for federal lobbying in 2022, slightly less than the $53.8 million the firm reported receiving for federal lobbying in 2021.
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which reported receiving $61.2 million from clients last year, was the highest grossing federal lobbying firm for the second consecutive year. That’s another new record — annual lobbying revenue reported by a single federal lobbying firm never breached $60 million in past years, even adjusted for inflation.
The top 10 lobbying firms raked in more than 9% of the $4.1 billion spent on federal lobbying in 2022, a new OpenSecrets analysis found.
One former member of Congress registered as a federal lobbyist during the fourth quarter of 2022, bringing the total number of former members who registered to lobby for the first time last year up to 13.
Former Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) registered to lobby on criminal justice reform on behalf of the bipartisan nonprofit Justice Action Network. The former ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee left office in 2021 after losing the U.S. Senate GOP primary to then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.).
Collins reported lobbying on “bipartisan criminal justice reforms that make our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, more efficient, and more effective” during the fourth quarter of 2022. As a part of that effort, he lobbied on the EQUAL Act, which would eliminate federal sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine offenses.
“I am excited to be working with Justice Action Network to continue the work that I started in Congress to advocate for strong conservative criminal justice reform,” Collins told POLITICO in a written statement.
Senior Researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report.