Top issues being lobbied today—and the companies that support them

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December 10, 2021
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Top issues being lobbied today—and the companies that support them

Voting isn’t the only way to have your voice heard. If there’s a company with a vested interest in how the government can help them achieve their goals or the goals of those who support them, lobbying is the way they do it. With entire firms dedicated to influencing and convincing lawmakers in Congress to support the funding or bills they want, all kinds of groups can keep the federal government aware of what Americans care about.

One of the nation’s favorite coffee chains spends about a million dollars each year lobbying for their interests, like sustainability and immigration rights. Defense companies maintain their close relationship with the U.S. government by lobbying for budget appropriations to be sent their way, and footwear giants lobby to make foreign relations easier on their bottom line. They all use companies with a wealth of research and resources at their disposal to build relationships with the politicians who can keep them in business.

To find out the top issues that lobbyists are working on today, and which companies are hiring them, Stacker used 2021 data from OpenSecrets based on data from the Senate Office of Public Records. The most recent data was released on October 22, 2021. Below are the top 10 issues currently being lobbied, and their clients—which include companies, trade groups, labor unions, and other types of organizations. Many clients and lobbyists focus on multiple issues, and not just because they may benefit monetarily. Some companies on this list don’t receive a direct benefit from lobbying these issues but rather use their money and influence to support them politically.

Whether it’s for reputation or compensation, here are the companies supporting the top issues on lobbyists’ radar right now.

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1 / 10
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#10. Education

- Total clients: 954
- Total lobbyists: 1,667
- Top clients: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Navient Corp., Start Early

Lobbyists are experts on the needs of their companies, the industries they reside in, and the programs they are pushing. In education, the number of dollars that go to each program, charter school, and public school can change drastically depending on parents’ opinions and the amount the federal government can allocate. If needs in special education, virtual education, or preschool change drastically as our health and technological capabilities change, lobbyists get to work on making sure that education advocates are securing the money necessary.

2 / 10
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#9. Environment and Superfund

- Total clients: 1,022
- Total lobbyists: 1,911
- Top clients: Southern Co., Starbucks Corp., Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions

Why would lobbyists hired by Starbucks be concerned about the environment? Starbucks is an influential company, and not just in the coffee business. They have increased their positive reputation among their fanbase by aligning themselves with the causes of refugees, LGBTQ+ residents, equal pay activists, and proponents of sustainability. So despite being known as an international coffee chain, they’re also heavily involved in making America what they want it to look like.

3 / 10
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#8. Medicare and Medicaid

- Total clients: 1,074
- Total lobbyists: 1,996
- Top clients: Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Amgen Inc., Roche Holdings

Medicaid and Medicare lobbyists try to influence the decisions of lawmakers by making it easier for the drug makers to do their jobs—that doesn’t mean they are lobbying for the interests of the patients. If patients want something like dental coverage added to Medicare, that’s not the job of the pharmaceutical lobbyist to make it happen. Fortune reported that the dental lobby isn’t interested in including dental care in Medicare, placing them at odds with many Americans who use it.

4 / 10
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#7. Energy and nuclear power

- Total clients: 1,091
- Total lobbyists: 2,142
- Top clients: Southern Co., Fluor Corp., Edison Electric Institute

Utility companies keep the company running, but have run into trouble recently because of many unexpected weather events—Hurricane Ida, droughts and fires in California, and tornadoes and flooding in the south. Their reliability and resources depend on how they adapt to that. President of the United States Joe Biden’s administration’s commitment to green jobs through the recently passed infrastructure bill will bring money to companies like Edison Electric Institute and involve them in the government’s plans for years to come.

5 / 10
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#6. Trade

- Total clients: 1,141
- Total lobbyists: 2,446
- Top clients: Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, FedEx Corp., Nike Inc.

Countries that sell to or do most of their business in foreign nations have a lot of stake in how trade works. Nike, for example, is a global company and the largest athletic footwear seller in the world. The supplies Nike gets from foreign countries as well as the footwear they sell in foreign countries are heavily influenced by the U.S. government. In 2019, Nike and more than 200 other companies signed a letter sent to the White House asking to lower tariffs on Chinese imports.

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6 / 10
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#5. Defense

- Total clients: 1,551
- Total lobbyists: 2,099
- Top clients: General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing Co.

Not only is defense a large part of the country’s budget, but defense companies are also working with the interests of their investors. General Dynamic is lower in reputation compared to companies like Lockheed Martin, but it has since been reported favorably for top performance in the stock market. Historic and life-shattering events such as 9/11 can drastically change how the government makes laws. Defense spending doubled after the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, and that was good for General Dynamics’ business—and even better for its shareholders.

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#4. Transportation

- Total clients: 1,653
- Total lobbyists: 2,623
- Top clients: FedEx Corp., U.S. Travel Association, Uber Technologies

Transportation has moved into more than just planes, trains, and automobiles. The social and technological aspects of ride-sharing have disquieted the taxi industry especially, resulting in court cases and new local and state laws to regulate this booming industry. Gig workers, who make up ride-share drivers nationwide, don’t receive full-time benefits, and Uber continues to lobby the government to keep it that way, and not increase protections for them.

8 / 10
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#3. Taxes

- Total clients: 1,993
- Total lobbyists: 4,227
- Top clients: Altria Group, Verizon Communications, NextEra Energy

Multiple kinds of companies would have an interest in changing taxes to favor their cause—companies that provide in-demand products especially want to lower costs. But one group that leads the tobacco industry, Altria, is now known for both contributing to the smoking section while supporting those who quit smoking. How they stand to benefit from a potential new tax on tobacco products is complicated, and it is a lobbyist’s job to discuss with lawmakers how future taxes can assist companies like Altria.

9 / 10
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#2. Health issues

- Total clients: 2,535
- Total lobbyists: 3,982
- Top clients: Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Roche Holdings, Pfizer Inc.

One of the most influential companies in health over the last two years is Pfizer, the first to develop and have emergency FDA approval of a COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 now has a large influence over how the government looks at health. Other pharmaceutical interests may want bills passed that gives them the freedom to produce and sell drugs and vaccines as the country’s needs change. Drug prices are a point of contention, and Politico has reported that pharmaceutical companies have sent a slew of lobbyists to convince Congress to limit the power of drug middlemen (such as CVS or OptimumRx).

10 / 10
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#1. Federal budget and appropriations

- Total clients: 3,820
- Total lobbyists: 4,574
- Top clients: General Dynamics, Emergent BioSolutions, Lockheed Martin

Those who want to be prioritized in the federal budget have to wait in a long line. So companies whose interests can drastically influence the economy are sure to make themselves as visible as they can to influential members of congress. Lockheed Martin is a powerful aerospace company that is also involved in arms and defense production. In the last fiscal year, the United States spent about 11% of its budget on national defense.

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