In early December 2017, we reported that 6,243 lobbyists had disclosed working on “tax” issues in first three quarters of 2017. People on both the right and the left of the political spectrum were shocked and disconcerted by that number.
Our abbreviated update to that report includes data from the fourth quarter of 2017, when comprehensive tax legislation was passed. Using federal lobbying disclosure data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org), we are able to calculate that a total of 7,088 lobbyists worked on tax issues in 2017. Read the full updated report here.
That figure equals more than 60 percent of the 11,444 lobbyists who reported working on any issue in 2017. It also works out to 13 lobbyists for every member of Congress. Put another way, it’s as if roughly the entire undergraduate enrollment of Georgetown University emptied out of school and poured onto Capitol Hill to influence elected officials and their staffs day in and day out.
Thirty-five separate industries dispatched at least 150 lobbyists each. Three industries – pharmaceuticals, insurance, and electronics – deployed more than 500 lobbyists each. Twenty-three individual corporations and organizations dispatched at least 50 lobbyists apiece, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which hired an astounding 115 lobbyists.
As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in December: “More than 6,000 lobbyists worked on the Republican tax bill – that’s more than half of the lobbyists in D.C. No wonder it’s a gift to giant corporations.”
The massive number of lobbyists who swarmed into the tax debate should serve as a warning to would-be reformers.
Those seeking a fairer, more progressive tax code should begin thinking about a fundamental redesign to our system that not only includes higher rates for the wealthy but also removes the myriad nooks and crannies in the tax code that lobbyists pray upon.
That will likely require starting over from scratch. Only by lobbyist-proofing the tax code will there be any hope of fairness and enduring progressiveness.