Lobbying: Your Government at Work

If you thought it was you - think again!

You've heard of K Street haven't you? In case you haven't it is located two blocks north of the White House in Washington DC. What makes K Street famous it's office buildings and occupants. K Street is lined with lobbyist and activist organizations whos sole purpose is to wine and dine Washington politicians to get legislation written in their favor.

Much has been said and written about corruption in government and K Street is the capital. It is one thing to donate money to your favorite politicians but when you expect to get something in return it is quite another.

The monetary support of government officials in return for favors is bribery. It is not only unethical but it creates a conflict of interest between representatives and the people who put them in office with their vote. The result is legislation that benefits a chosen few and hurts most people who never needed the legislation in the first place.

Have you ever wondered why incandescent light bulbs are going away? Why is it your cell phone bill is so expensive? Why do you have to buy a package of cable TV channels that have channels you will never watch let alone like? Why are top loading washing machines fading fast? The answer to these questions has more to do with government corruption than better technology.

Activist organizations and lobbying cost everyone more. When corporations lobby their consumers pay more for their products services. If the product or service is taxable more taxes are paid. The money has to come from somewhere and it doesn't come from reduced profits. Corporations build it into their budget as an expense. Lobbying performed by unions who represent public employees comes directly from the tax payers.

Let's explore a few of big time lobbyist who are constantly active.

In 2010 General Electric spent $43,150,000 and hired 237 to influence 247 bills. In the past GE has been successful in pushing green technology and convincing the US Congress to outlaw the Incandescent Light Bulb in favor of the CFL. GE also received a generous taxpayer bailout when its financial services division brought it to its knees. GE also survived through lucrative government subsidies and contracts.

General Motors spent $9,570,000 and hired 76 lobbyists to influence 99 bills during 2010. Despite bad business practices, uninspired products, and union giveaways, GM was kept afloat by a large government bailout. GM handed out bonuses to its employees despite its red ink. Its latest product, the Chevy Volt, is passed off as 'green technology” and “environmental friendly”. The Volt's gasoline engine emits 0.53 lbs of CO2 per mile. When powered by its battery it emits 0.55 lbs of CO2 per mile. In states that use coal to generate electricity the Volt can dump up to 0.95 lbs of CO2 per mile. The Chevy Volt is an outstanding example of the “green” lie. Should carbon taxes be instituted GM won't pay – your electric company will and it will cost you more.

Microsoft spent $8,831,000 and hired 35 lobbyists to influence 77 bills in 2010 alone.. Microsoft is an example of a company that was forced into lobbying by government bureaucrats to protect itself. It was the Justice Department's antitrust suit against Microsoft that propelled the company into heavy lobbying. Microsoft influences congressional bills regarding cloud computing, security issues, Internet, patents, software piracy, and intellectual property.

United Parcel Service spent $5,587,349 and used 42 lobbyists to influence 42 bills in 2010. Along with Federal Express who spent $1,196,350. Both companies oppose revisions in the US Postal Service and lobby to push free trade agreements. UPS also lobbied for bailout money.

In 2010 Verizon Communications spent $16,530,000 in 2010. The company had 143 lobbyist working on 192 bills. In contrast, AT&T spent $19,894,578 and used 134 lobbyist to influence 238 bills. Both companies lobby hard for their acquisitions, ability to offer more services, long distance, and rallied against bill that would give the states rights to control the telecommunications market allowing free channel choice for TV subscribers.

Comcast Corporation spent $12,937,000 and hired 109 lobbyists to influence 72 bills. The companies interest lie in Net Neutrality, channel choice, its merger with NBC Universal, and other areas that impacts its business. Comcast contributes significantly to Philadelphia politicians and to the Democratic Party.

The American Cancer Society spent $3,700,000 of is donations on politicians in 2010. It seems the charity would rather lobby on the issues of Medicare, Medicaid, human rights, taxes, tobacco, and federal budget appropriations than save the lives of existing cancer patients.

These are just a few examples of how organizations are involved in the political system of give and take. Corporations and non-profits have become experts in gaining favor with politicians who write laws that benefit both the politician and corporation.

While lobbyist are required to record their efforts, some of it is not recorded and some is hidden.

Top 100 lobbyist in last 12 years.

(click column header to sort results)
AT&T Inc
American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees
National Assn of Realtors
Goldman Sachs
American Assn for Justice
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
National Education Assn
Laborers Union
Teamsters Union
Carpenters & Joiners Union
Service Employees International Union
American Federation of Teachers
Communications Workers of America
Citigroup Inc
American Medical Assn
United Auto Workers
National Auto Dealers Assn
Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union
United Parcel Service
United Food & Commercial Workers Union
Altria Group
American Bankers Assn
National Assn of Home Builders
EMILY's List
National Beer Wholesalers Assn
JPMorgan Chase & Co
Microsoft Corp
National Assn of Letter Carriers
Time Warner
Morgan Stanley
Lockheed Martin
General Electric
Verizon Communications
Credit Union National Assn
FedEx Corp
Bank of America
National Rifle Assn
Blue Cross/Blue Shield
Ernst & Young
Sheet Metal Workers Union
International Assn of Fire Fighters
Plumbers & Pipefitters Union
American Hospital Assn
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
American Dental Assn
Operating Engineers Union
Air Line Pilots Assn
Natl Assn/Insurance & Financial Advisors
Boeing Co
Pfizer Inc
Union Pacific Corp
United Steelworkers
United Transportation Union
Merrill Lynch
Ironworkers Union
Reynolds American
Northrop Grumman
American Institute of CPAs
American Postal Workers Union
Credit Suisse Group
National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn
BellSouth Corp
General Dynamics
Comcast Corp
American Financial Group
Walt Disney Co
Exxon Mobil
National Air Traffic Controllers Assn
Club for Growth
DLA Piper
Raytheon Co
News Corp
Natl Active & Retired Fed Employees Assn
Koch Industries
Honeywell International
Human Rights Campaign
National Restaurant Assn
New York Life Insurance
Associated Builders & Contractors
Wal-Mart Stores
Southern Co
Saban Capital Group
American Health Care Assn
American Academy of Ophthalmology
Prudential Financial
Newsweb Corp
American Society of Anesthesiologists
MetLife Inc
Data for this article was retrieved from the databases of The Center for Responsive Politics at opensecrets.org. The databases contain a wealth of information including names of politicians, lobbyists, copies of original documents, and bills.

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Comments 22 comments

someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 5 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Way to go! Voted Up and Awesome! Awesome because most people don't even bother to find much less publicize this Information.

HSchneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Great Hub. This topic is especially important after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The amount of corporate money influencing government and elections has always been outrageous but now it is unlimited. That decision was horrible. Government policies are too far skewed to business now. Those politicians who claim that it does not influence them are lying. It is quickly destroying our democracy. You can see the Koch Brothers influence in all aspects of government. Thank you for outlining this problem in this article.

Carolyn2008 profile image

Carolyn2008 5 years ago from Boston

Thank you for the detailed research you clearly put in for this hub. Excellent information.

J.S.Matthew profile image

J.S.Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Wow, what an awesome Hub! This is so well researched and well written! Thanks for sharing this. It's incredible what the government does. It's one big business for a small group of people who profit! While the rest of the country is near starving.


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 5 years ago from Illinois

joer, An excellently researced writing, voted up and beautiful. My friend running for Senator from Texas in 2012, wants to tax unions. Did you know they are tax exempt? H

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Thank you for this invaluable info. I really appreciate the research and will refer to it often, I am sure. Voted up useful and definitely awesome.

Stu From VT 5 years ago

This is the one bane of democracy; over time, every democracy becomes plutocratic. There are no exceptions.

joer4x4 profile image

joer4x4 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA Author

Thanks everyone for the comments. They're certainly appreciated.

Stu - I agree and more need to push government in the right direction. But we need to be clear in that we are not democracy. We are a republic and in a republic those who rattle the saber the loudest get the most attention.

Politicians understand this and they keep using the term "democracy" to make everyone "feel" equal. But behind the scenes the play the republic for all its worth.

Many believe this is a democracy and that may be one of the many reasons why many are passive in politics.

Harvey - yes, the unions are not taxed and are non-profit. But you would never know it for the millions they give to politicians every year. Look how many are in the top 100!

HSchneider - Now you know why congress is always writing legislation that kills of products that work well. But we are forced to buy more expensive and inferior products. One example I like to use is windshield washer fluid. It used to work well but today is cost more and frankly, it stinks and is now far more poisonous. Congress outlawed the alcohol that used to be in it. But it's ok to splatter the environment with methanol.

LRCBlogger profile image

LRCBlogger 5 years ago

I think this is a great hub and I've been saying this for a long time. However, I'm going to challenge you and Stu. I know Stu would probably never vote for a democrat.

How do you solve the problem? One solution is the "Fair Elections Now Act" which would effectively remove private financing from campaigns. Congress would no longer be 'in debt' to corp America.

Here is the problem. Before the elections, it had 154 Democratic co-sponsors and 2 republicans. Now that Republicans control the House, there is no way they would pass campaign finance reform...especially since the speaker is a big supporter of lobbyist and system of money in politics.

Best solution I see is to elect more Democrats to get this passed?

Both sides take tons of money from lobbyist but one side has at least attempted to end it (Dems). The GOP has made it clear they support the current system. They have shown almost no support in changing it.

joer4x4 profile image

joer4x4 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA Author

LCR - The Democrats I think, are just trying to make themselves look good. But even if they did it would not affect them. They have ActBlue who raised far more than the $51 million they gave to democrats. ActBlue spends enormous amounts on democratic candidates indirectly along with the unions. They just dumped millions into Wisconsin. S.1285 & H.R.1826 wouldn't stop this as the funds would just be diverted. The money trail behind the bill is from sponsors who have agendas and it won't affect them. Unions, Greenpeace, etc..

This has been on the table since 2007 and the dems could have easily passed it when they had control. But they didn't. I don't know about you but this tell me quite a lot.

If anyone has an incentive its the republicans simply because they don't generate the revenue that the democrats do.

Let me be clear - Yes both parties take money and Boehner's financiers look a lot like any democrat's. It is what it is.

There are too many loop holes in S.1285 & H.R.1826 that will be easy to get around. First off it's a Treasury fund. Hell, the FED can't hold on to what they have now. I'm skeptical of any bill that hands money over to bankers. You do realize the Fed is a corporate entity? Second, when you research how the money is contributed, these bills make no difference and only put limits on amounts. You overcome that my attaching more money to more names.

I suggest actually reading S.1285 & H.R.1826 like the bill is aimed at curtailing your power and thnm asking "how can I get around this" after every provision.

Both bills are misleading and won't solve anything.

To be honest, with the state of government the way it is, I'm not sure a solution can found.

LRCBlogger profile image

LRCBlogger 5 years ago

Joer, here in CT we have implemented a similiar system and it is considered a success. It has allowed people with average incomes to run for office (and win). It also keeps the politicians liable to the people. So far it has had some issues but is certainly better than nothing.

I completely hear you about circumventing. I honestly don't have the answer but I can clearly see steps we need to take. Good to see that we agree!

I think people raising awareness (like you did with this hub) is at least a step in the right direction.

joer4x4 profile image

joer4x4 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA Author

LCR: Amen! LOL!

LRCBlogger profile image

LRCBlogger 5 years ago

Joer, by the way, I was intentionally being a little antagonistic saying we needed to elect more dems to get real campaign finance reform. Clearly both sides have not served the people well.

Stu From VT 5 years ago


Campaign finance reform would be great, but realistically, Congress is not going to vote itself a big pay cut. And there is no way to limit soft money in the wake of Citizens United. While the CU decision was correct, as any other ruling would violate the First Amendment, it does have the unfortunate side effect of making any meaningful campaign finance reform almost impossible.

Get comfy with plutocracy; it's here to stay.


joer4x4 profile image

joer4x4 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA Author

The solution is very difficult at best. Writing a law is easy, getting the congress and senate to do it is another story.

Now if I were dictator my solution would be - you can take all the money you want but by law but you will abstain from writing, voting, or conslting on any legislation pertaining directly or indirectly to your donors.

I would of course amend the Constituion so it would be effective at all levels of government with severe non-monetary penalties for all parties.

I think that would dry up a lot of money but not all. What's the point if you can't bribe'em. On the other hand politicians could not use the threat of legislation to force more donations.

I think that would be a good start.

Stu From VT 5 years ago

Hi joer,

The problem with your solution is that either secret agreements will be made with the donor, or people representing the donor as "cutouts" (buffers). In reality, such a law probably can't be enforced, because in most cases it will be impossible to prove violations took place.


joer4x4 profile image

joer4x4 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA Author

Stu: Your right as most laws cannot be enforced anyway!

Stu From VT 5 years ago

joer - And those that can often aren't! :(

Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I enjoyed this article and gained some information about lobbying and how rampant it is in our congress. I do not disagree with lobbyist or lobbying. I think it is an okay thing to do, I just need to figure out which group supports my ideas and push for it.

I do have a problem with politicians taking bribes or setting up long term deals that hurt Americans. I think we should have term limits for representatives, 4 for Senate and 8 for House.

joer4x4 profile image

joer4x4 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA Author

Lobbying is a reality and a means for communication. I think the authors of the Constitution knew this thus setting up America as a Republic.

Unfortunately when the money trail is followed it benefits politicians and big business. We are then forced to buy inferior products or abide by laws that hurt more people than they help.

Not all of this is bad but most of it has become detrimental to the country and individual.

Charles Hilton 4 years ago

Corporations cry foul over government regulation while bribing government for special treatment. And when they tank the economy with their casino-style gambling on Wall Street---in which they bet against their own financial instruments---government bails them out.

It's a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose situation for them.

I was stunned and sorely disappointed when I learned of the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street; which is yet another conflict of interest that one would naturally assume to be illegal.

But, not in America, where the whole economic/political system---especially our elections---is built on legally sanctioned bribery.

The best place to start for a remedy to this skulduggery is to ban ALL private money from our elections and publicly fund them, like most other nations do. That would level the playing field and give alternative candidates an equal chance to run for office.

As it stands, America is held hostage by the two-party stranglehold on our government which keeps otherwise creative ideas and solutions off the table. Our two-party death-grip ensures perpetual gridlock and stagnation while other---more sane---nations move ahead of us in every quality of life statistic.

Okay, I'm stopping. Any hub that gets me to ranting like this gets a thumbs up. LOL

joer4x4 profile image

joer4x4 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA Author

Charles: If I got you ranting, I must have done a good job.

I can't find a good argument to counter your words. "Casino style gambling" is an excellent description.

Thanks for stopping by!

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