|Posted by Jerrald J President on January 27, 2018 at 7:10 AM|
Problem-Reaction-Solution? By JJP
Draining the swamp? D.C. lobbying during Trump administration surges to highest level in 7 years
WASHINGTON — Lobbying activity in Washington surged to $3.34 billion last year — its highest level since 2010 — as corporations, trade groups and other interests scrambled to make their mark on everything from fast-moving tax legislation to immigration policy during President Trump’s first year in office.
The new tally from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics shows powerful and long-standing trade groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Realtors, spending the most money to shape policy in 2017.
“Lobbyists appear not to have gotten the memo about draining the swamp,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director, referring to Trump’s often-repeated campaign pledge to clean up Washington and rein in lobbyists.
The center’s tally also shows that lobbying by individual companies hit new levels.
Google’s federal spending jumped to $18 million last year, a new high in the tech giant’s lobbying history in Washington. Tech companies are facing increasing scrutiny as lawmakers consider regulating online advertising. Congress is investigating Russia’s use of social media platforms to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Congressional filings show Google lobbied on broad issues — from cyber-security and tax legislation to immigration, including Trump’s controversial executive orders that temporarily banned refugees and immigrants from some majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Google and dozens of other tech firms banded together last year to ask the Supreme Court to rule against the travel ban, saying it hurt their ability to attract workers and compete globally.
Google officials did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the company's lobbying activity.
The nonprofit Open Society Policy Center, aligned with liberal billionaire George Soros, reported $16.1 million in spending last year, a record for the organization since it began reporting federal lobbying in 2002. Much of the money — a total of $10.3 million — was spent in the last three months of the year and largely reflects grants Open Society made to other, aligned groups to support their lobbying activity, officials said.
Congressional records show Open Society lobbying efforts included a push to limit child trafficking and measures introduced by congressional Democrats that would prohibit Trump from making a preemptive strike against North Korea without congressional approval.
“We make different grants each year depending on what is happening in Congress and there was a lot going in 2017: Protecting immigrants and refugees, preserving fairness in the tax code, advocating for criminal justice reform, pressing for disaster relief for Puerto Rico, and promoting a progressive U.S. foreign policy,” Jonathan Kaplan, an Open Society spokesman, said in an email.
Lobbying also soared during the last three months of the year for the National Association of Realtors, which spent $22.2 million during the fourth-quarter of 2017, double what it spent during the previous three months, congressional records show.
The 1.3 million-member Realtors group waged an aggressive lobbying campaign to reshape the tax overhaul that sped through Congress at year’s end. The trade group flew in local Realtors to Washington and ran ads targeting key lawmakers as it worked to defeat a slew of provisions opposed by the industry in an original House version of the tax bill.
"There was a lot on the table," Jamie Gregory, the Realtors' deputy chief lobbyist said. "In the end, we needed to be fully engaged to get as much of that neutralized before the final bill passed."
Among the wins Realtors have touted: Preserving an exemption from capital gains taxes when homeowners profit from the sale of their primary residence and beating back a provision that would have limited the mortgage interest deduction for home purchases to those with new loans of $500,000 or less.
The final law increased the cap to $750,000.
The Realtors already have begun lobbying to ease other provisions that made it into the final law, such as a new, $10,000 cap on the deductions that individual taxpayers can take to offset local and state income, sales and property taxes.
Previously, there was no cap, and the change hits pocketbooks of homeowners who live in counties and states with high property taxes.
"We are going to see if we can't start to nibble away" at the law, Gregory said.