Top Recipients of Lobbyists' Cash, 2013: An OpenSecrets Analysis
When most people think of lobbyists at work, they picture a fancy dinner with a member of Congress to discuss legislative priorities. The lavish meals are mostly a thing of the past, thanks to tighter ethics rules. But lobbyists have other ways to exert their influence: Campaign contributions are almost always welcomed by lawmakers.
An OpenSecrets.org analysis has crunched the available data from the 2014 election cycle to glean contributions from registered lobbyists active this year. The top 50 recipients included 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans.
It seems that Democrats, led by high donation totals to Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), have won the early battle. The 26 liberals surveyed have so far benefited from a total of nearly $1.1 million this year, while their conservative counterparts have racked up $705,388 from lobbyists over the same period.
It comes as no surprise that Markey is the No. 1 recipient, given his recent special election campaign. The House member-turned-senator brought in $183,340 from lobbyists, according to available data -- nearly $60,000 more than any other recipient. Individuals and PACs associated with law and lobbying have long been good to Markey; the sector has combined to add more than $640,000 to his campaign coffers since 2009.
While Markey’s road to the top spot is easily explained, there are other factors at play in Baucus' placement as runner-up. His office has an extensive history of both feeding and favoring the "revolving door" -- dozens of Baucus staffers have left his office to become lobbyists (and vice-versa). Baucus has even been called "K Street's Favorite Democrat."
It doesn't hurt, of course, that Baucus is chairman of the muscular Senate Finance Committee, which holds tax-writing power. Baucus and ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have recently proposed rewriting the federal tax code from scratch in an effort to eliminate certain tax breaks and loopholes.
The Montana senator will undoubtedly be bombarded by pressure from the tax lobby in the upcoming months, some members of which are already among his top donors. In the 2014 cycle, individuals and PACs associated with the lobbying firm Akin, Gump (which often lobbies on taxes) combined to give Baucus $33,250, making the firm his third highest donor.
Lobbyists, in fact, have been Baucus' second-highest donor industry ever since his last election in 2008, giving him more than $340,000 -- and about $125,000 of that total came earlier this year. That was before the senator's late April announcement that he will not run for re-election next year, a fact that will likely put a serious damper on his contributions from all sources.
Overall, contributions from members of the lobbying industry have steadily increased over the past two decades, exceeding $40 million in the 2012 cycle despite the fact that President Obama refused checks from lobbyists for his presidential campaigns. Democrats have generally received the majority of funds, but Republicans nevertheless have been able to claim the advantage several times in recent years.
Top 10 Recipients of Contributions from Lobbyists in 2013
|Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)||$183,340|
|Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)||$125,094|
|Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)||$85,100|
|Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)||$84,700|
|Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)||$79,850|
|Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)||$70,300|
|Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio)||$67,930|
|Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)||$54,350|
|Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)||$53,100|
|Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)||$51,700|
The top cash-getter from the House is Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), whose 2013 total from lobbyists has nearly reached $68,000. Boehner’s national influence helped make the industry his 12th largest supplier of cash in 2012.
Lobbyists appear to be among the early supporters of Senate candidates seeking reelection in 2014, particularly in the potential battlegrounds of Arkansas and Kentucky. Lobbyists have hopped on board to support the influential incumbent Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate majority leader. The two rank third and fourth on the contributions list, with Pryor at $85,100 and McConnell only $400 behind him. Following them up are Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), both up for reelection next year as well.
Lawmakers on key committees get more attention from lobbyists. For instance, the banking industry often targets members of the House Financial Services Committee -- and where big money goes, lobbyists follow. Indeed, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who chairs the committee, has garnered $46,700 from lobbyists so far this year to make him the second highest House member on the list, behind Boehner. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Finance, Budget, and Judiciary Committees, brought in $51,700 as the 11th highest overall recipient.
The analysis also accounted for individuals who have received no money from lobbyists so far this year -- including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and 110 other lawmakers. Some of them -- Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) -- have announced their retirements.
As expected, members of the Senate amassed the majority of large contributions. Ten of the top 11 recipients hail from the smaller chamber, with the sole exception being Boehner.
Senior Researcher Doug Weber contributed to this story.