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Pandemic recovery, China competition, insulin cap help drive spending on lobbying

10 groups alone spent $75.3 million from January through March

Speaking March 31 at a news conference on the Affordable Insulin Now Act were, from left, Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.; House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C.; Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn.; and Rep. Lucy McGrath, D-Ga.
Speaking March 31 at a news conference on the Affordable Insulin Now Act were, from left, Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.; House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C.; Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn.; and Rep. Lucy McGrath, D-Ga. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corrected April 22 | The nation’s 10 biggest spenders on federal lobbying shelled out a combined $75.3 million in the first quarter, new disclosures show, as K Street begins to prepare for the coming tumult of the midterm campaigns. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Amazon, and Facebook’s parent company Meta were among the groups and companies that disclosed spending the most on lobbying so far this year, according to disclosures filed to the House and Senate this week. 

They lobbied on a range of topics, including Democrats’ stalled reconciliation package, a sprawling China competition bill, a bill to cap consumer payments for insulin at $35 a month and ongoing pandemic-related matters. The top 10 disclosed spending more than the top 10 did in last year’s first quarter, when the total was $68.2 million. But spending on lobbying by the top companies and groups hit $81.6 million in early 2020, as lawmakers rushed relief to deal with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Automaker General Motors rounded out the top 10 with an uptick in its federal lobbying investment, filings show. It lobbied on “electric vehicle tax credits, advanced manufacturing and supply chain incentives, funding and tax credits for EV infrastructure/chargers, tax credits for green hydrogen production and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles,” among other matters, according to its disclosure. GM’s outside consultants included Ricchetti Inc., the firm of Jeff Ricchetti, who is the brother of Steve Ricchetti, counselor to President Joe Biden. 

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the city’s second biggest lobbying practice as measured by publicly disclosed federal fees, said this year’s first quarter was its biggest on record, with $13 million from such clients as PhRMA and the Business Roundtable, both top 10 spenders. Akin Gump’s biggest clients, in terms of lobbying disclosures, were the Gila River Indian Community, which paid the firm $860,000 in the first quarter, and ZTE Corp., which paid it $410,000 during the period, according to filings. 

Akin Gump’s Brian Pomper, a co-leader of the firm’s lobbying practice, said in a statement that issues such as user fee authorizations for the Food and Drug Administration, Russia sanctions, appropriations and tax matters would be on the agenda this year. He also touted the recent arrival at the firm of ex-Rep. Filemon Vela, a Texas Democrat who resigned from Congress to take the job. Pomper said Vela “brings strong relationships with the Biden-Harris Administration and Democrats throughout the House and Senate.”

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the largest lobbying practice, hauled in $15.4 million in federal fees, an increase from its first quarter of 2021 but a small decrease from its nearly $16 million in last year’s fourth quarter.  

Marc Lampkin, a former GOP congressional aide who manages Brownstein’s D.C. office, noted the recent addition late last year of the Boeing Co.’s former top lobbyist, Timothy Keating, as helping the firm expand more into defense, aerospace and technology matters.  

Among Brownstein’s top-paying clients for the first quarter were Athene Holding ($650,000) and Lightstone Investments ($470,000). 

Lampkin said the ongoing executive-branch implementation of last year’s bipartisan infrastructure measure, a China competition bill and the interplay of Congress and the administration when it comes to potential Executive Orders would continue to drive business this year.

The coming elections will also be top of mind. 

“Looking forward, everyone in town is deciding how to be best positioned for what may be a change in the dynamic of the power structure in Washington,” Lampkin said. “What does the potential change in control of Congress mean for legislation, for oversight?”

Holland & Knight, another of the city’s biggest lobby shops, disclosed some $10.1 million in fees, up from $9.7 million in last year’s fourth quarter. The bipartisan firm Invariant, led by lobbyist Heather Podesta, posted $9.2 million for the quarter with fees from such clients as the Business Roundtable, the National Medicinal Cannabis Association and the American Beverage Association.  

BGR Group reported $9.6 million for the first quarter, up from $9.2 million in the fourth quarter of last year and $8.3 million in the first quarter of 2021, according to the firm. 

K&L Gates reported $5.2 million for the quarter, down from the $5.8 million it reported in the fourth quarter of last year but up from its $4.8 million in the first quarter of 2021. 

“With a war in Europe, a continuing pandemic, economic instability, and a volatile U.S. midterm season ahead, 2022 is shaping up to be at least as busy for Congress and the administration as the past two unprecedented years have been,” said K&L Gates’ Paul Stimers in a statement. “We are growing the team to reflect what our clients are looking for, including work in transportation and logistics, national defense and security, human and physical infrastructure, and energy and the environment.”

The expanding firm Monument Advocacy had something of a boom first quarter, reporting nearly $3.3 million in publicly disclosed fees, up 20 percent from the fourth quarter and up almost 50 percent over last year’s first quarter. Its new clients included World Central Kitchen ($10,000), Seafood Nutrition Partnership ($50,000) and SA Scientific ($30,000). 

Monument also continued to lobby for Amazon, which paid the firm $60,000 to work on issues related to consumer and data privacy, disclosures show.  

“With gridlock in Congress growing, we are pleased that our strong quarter of LDA income, combined with our expanding public affairs practice, represents our ability to put points on the board in 2022 and beyond,” said the firm’s CEO, C. Stewart Verdery, in a statement.

The top top-paying clients of the Brownstein firm cited were corrected in this report.

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