The lobbying industry is back! But don’t expect more action on Capitol Hill.

July 31, 2014

Lobbyist Bruce Bereano, left, chats inside a tent at the 38th annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake this month. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

Good news, America! According to analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics, spending on lobbying in Washington is about the same as last year — potentially meaning that "the lobbying industry is coming out of its slide." Happy days are here again!

That slide began in earnest in 2010, as spending on lobbying began to taper off. (The actual number of lobbyists had begun to fall in 2007.) But as you can see in this graph, it's been pretty flat for the past two years, and CRP thinks 2014 (which is lower right now because it's only July) could return the industry to positive numbers.

But the timing is interesting. For the past few Congresses, we've seen less legislation enacted than at any time in recent memory. Is there a link between the drop in lobbying and the drop in legislation? Using data from GovTrack, we pulled the number of bills and resolutions enacted each year and compared them with the amount of spending.

The answer? No real correlation. (The "r2" value measures correlation. The closer to 1, the stronger the correlation between the two sets of data.)


But legislation is enacted at varying times each year. Was there a relationship between when lobbying expenditures were made and when legislation was enacted? The Center for Responsive Politics generously broke down the data by reporting period: semiannually from 1998 to 2007 and quarterly from 2008 on.

And: still no correlation.


But there is one clear correlation involving lobbying spending. Using data from the Federal Reserve, we plotted lobbying spending against federal spending for the year. And, voila.


This doesn't mean that more lobbying leads to more spending. It could mean that lobbyists spend more when they know the government is planning to spend more. But regardless — that's what a correlation looks like.

If you're curious, the Center for Responsive Politics also provides information on which industries are doing the most lobbying. Thanks, health-care lobbyists, for keeping those wheels greased.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.
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