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Lobbying reports show K Street is off to a strong start in 2023

Lobbyists expect activity to continue, even in divided government

General Motors’ Cadillac brand shows off its 2023 Lyriq Debut Edition electric sport utility at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 9 in Chicago.
General Motors’ Cadillac brand shows off its 2023 Lyriq Debut Edition electric sport utility at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 9 in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The 10 biggest spenders on federal lobbying increased their combined outlays to $79.2 million during the first three months of this year as trade groups and industries dealt with divided government and the implementation of sweeping laws enacted last year, new disclosures show.

General Motors, for example, made an appearance among the top 10 spenders, with outlays of $5.1 million to influence issues that include new electric vehicle credits as well as autonomous vehicles and fuel economy standards.

With several crucial pieces of “must-do” legislation looming, lobbyists say they expect vigorous efforts to influence the legislative and executive branches will continue.

“Whether it’s divided government or single-party government, I think you have to be prepared to engage with Congress and with the administration in power,” said Nadeam Elshami, co-chair of government relations at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

Brownstein had a record-breaking year in 2022, and its first-quarter filings show it continued to do well. The firm reported $15.8 million in revenue from January through March, up from $15.4 million in the same period in 2022. Brownstein recently expanded its team and is focused on artificial intelligence, health care, energy and implementation of the 2022 law to fund domestic production of semiconductors and other technology initiatives, among other issues.

K Street interests expect a big year in 2023, with several key bills coming up for votes, including the National Defense Authorization Act, the farm bill, reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and the battles over raising the debt limit and setting spending levels.

“With mixed control, there’s a potential narrative that not a whole lot is getting done, and I think what we’ve seen this quarter is a very good amount of activity,” said Karishma Page, who leads the public policy and law practice at K&L Gates. The firm reported $5.5 million in revenue for the first quarter, compared with $5.3 million in the final quarter of 2022 and $5.2 million in the first quarter of 2022. 

“It may be there isn’t a lot of day-to-day legislative activity, but we have some pretty significant must-do packages this year and we’re seeing stakeholders engaging, educating policymakers and socializing issues. So when those vehicles like debt limit, federal funding, national defense authorization or farm bill are ready, the issues are prepared and ready to go,” Page said.

The full reopening of the Capitol after the pandemic is also fueling lobbying activity. “There’s a lot of energy around that as well,” Page said. “We are seeing a return to those in-person meetings on the Hill.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, typically a big spender on lobbying, once again reported spending more during the quarter, $18.7 million, than any other group filing disclosure reports. In 2022, the chamber shelled out $79.4 million for lobbying.

The chamber listed a host of issues it lobbied on, including matters related to supply chains and defense; small-business innovation research; appropriations for the war in Ukraine; the U.S. space industry; and global competition with China.

The health care sector dominated the top spenders. Six of the top 10 spenders — Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, CVS Health, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, CIGNA Group and America’s Health Insurance Plans — spent a combined $37.3 million from Jan. 1 through March 31, according to filings.

Another big spender was the National Association of Realtors. The group allocated $13.3 million this quarter, making it second only to the chamber in spending. 

The Realtors’ group has seen its lobbying investment climb over the past year: It was the top spender in 2022, shelling out $81.5 million, a significant increase over the $43.8 million it spent in 2021.

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