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Corporations Already Spent Over $1 Billion on Lobbying in First Quarter of 2024

Big businesses have already spent $1.2 billion to ensure pro-corporate policies and ever-rising profits.

The U.S. Capitol building depicted on the back of a 50 dollar bill.

Federal lobbying spending exceeded $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2024 — putting the year on track for another nominal record, a new OpenSecrets analysis found.

The top-spending 166 clients accounted for about $404.1 million of that.

When adjusted for inflation, the $1.2 billion in first-quarter federal lobbying spending represents a 1.3% increase compared to the same period last year.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent about $23.4 million on lobbying during the first three months of 2024, up 22% from the previous quarter and more than any other first quarter since 2018. The chamber lobbies on a wide range of business issues with priorities including the extension of tax cuts under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017.

The National Association of Realtors was the second biggest lobbying spender of the first quarter, continuing a trend from 2023. The real estate trade association and the chamber are consistently the top two spenders when it comes to federal lobbying spending.

With the real estate industry grappling with looming changes to real estate commissions, the National Association of Realtors ramped up its lobbying with $14.9 million in spending during the first three months of this year — more than any prior first quarter.

After a $418 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in March, the National Association of Realtors agreed to adjust existing rules governing agent commissions. If the settlement is approved, brokers listing homes on affiliated databases would be barred from offering compensation to buyers’ agents to prevent the buyers’ agents from steering clients toward homes because they offer higher commissions.

Under longstanding rules, sellers negotiate fees with brokers, who then determine how much to share with the buyers’ agent from real estate sale earnings. But instead of sellers covering commissions for both the buyers’ agent and the buyers, buyers would independently compensate their agents under the changes.

Health Issues Continue to Drive Lobbying Spending

Healthcare policy also continued to attract heavy lobbying spending with 1,966 clients paying lobbyists to advocate on a wide range of health-related issues advancing through Congress, including reforming the 340B discount drug program, reducing supply chain issues, and reining in pharmaceutical benefit managers or PBMs. PBMs act as middlemen between pharmacies, insurance companies and drug manufacturers to negotiate prices on behalf of insurers and employers.

The health sector accounted for about $198.8 million in the first quarter of 2024 after about $747.5 million in 2023, continuing to outspend most other sectors as in prior quarters.

The American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America all ranked among the top 10 lobbying spenders of the first quarter.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association ranked eleventh with $5.3 million in spending, more than it spent in any prior quarter but less than half of the nearly $9.8 million spent by PhRMA as the two groups fought over drug pricing reforms.

The PBM trade group’s federal lobbying spending soared to $15.4 million in 2023, an increase from $8.6 million the prior year.

This year, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association first-quarter lobbying spending topped $4.8 million, up from less than $2.8 million during the same period in 2023 — putting the group on track for another record year of federal lobbying spending.

After Congress addressed drug prices in the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, it turned its attention to PBMs. Members of both parties have argued that the companies fail to pass discounts along to their clients and hurt small, community pharmacies but lawmakers remain divided over how to best rein in the healthcare middlemen. PBM reforms were eventually stripped from a spending package passed last month.

Novartis AG also substantially ramped up lobbying spending to about $3.6 million in the first quarter of this year, and up from $2.5 million during the first three months of 2023. The Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer, like other companies in the industry, lobbied heavily on issues related to drug pricing.

Big Tech’s Big Money

Big Tech companies also poured substantial funds into lobbying, outpacing their spending during the same period last year by more than $4.2 million.

Facebook parent company Meta spent more on federal lobbying in the first few months of 2024 than any prior quarter with a record $7.6 million going to influence federal policy. During the same period in 2023, Meta poured $4.5 million into lobbying efforts. A majority of last year’s spending went to issues relating to computers and information technology.

Specifically, Meta focused on issues ranging from data privacy and cybersecurity to artificial intelligence, including one push by Congress to regulate how social media companies protect children.

In January of this year, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg along with other social media leaders testified before Congress about the safety of children on their digital platforms, pushing back against tighter government regulation. In April, the Protect Kids on Social Media Act was introduced in an attempt to create a system of age verification for children, among other key safety issues. Meta was joined by Alphabet Inc. and X Inc., formally known as Twitter Inc., in its efforts to lobby on the bill.

Alphabet Inc., which owns Google and YouTube, spent $3.6 million on federal lobbying during the first quarter of the year — nearly matching last year’s first-quarter spending of $3.4 million.

X Inc. continued to decrease its lobbying spending in the first quarter of this year, spending just $170,000, down from $310,000 during the same period last year.

The platform’s lobbying has consistently been eclipsed by other Big Tech companies, having peaked in 2021 with $1.7 million in federal spending. After then-Twitter’s acquisition by billionaire Elon Musk in 2022, the platform’s lobbying budget began to drop even more. By 2023, the platform’s total annual federal lobbying spending dwindled to $850,000 and this year is on track for even less.

The struggling platform also has the fewest number of lobbyists compared to other social media and tech giants with six during the first quarter of 2024.

The decrease in X Inc.’s federal lobbying spending follows reporting late last year that investment firm Fidelity decreased the platform’s valuation of its stock.

ByteDance, which owns video-sharing app TikTok, spent about $2.7 million to influence federal policy during the first quarter of 2024, up from about $1.5 million during the same period in 2023 and the most it has ever spent during the first three months of any year. The company’s ramped-up lobbying efforts in the first quarter of this year follow record lobbying spending in 2023 topping $8.7 million amid increased scrutiny of the video-sharing platform’s ties to China.

These efforts have continued an uptick in lobbying from the social media giant as it unsuccessfully attempted to fend off congressional intervention. In April, Congress passed a foreign aid bill that included a provision preventing TikTok from operating in the U.S. if it did not sell to an American company.

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