The two areas where we can expect the next administration to usher in massive shifts in domestic policy are health care and climate change. This would definitely be true under an Obama Administration, and could well be true under a McCain one as well. The health care and energy industries aren’t stupid; anticipating upcoming movement on their respective issues, they’ve put their lobbying efforts in hyperdrive to try and direct that movement.
CQ Politics charts the number of lobbying registrations filed in the first quarter of 2008 for each sector, and they come up with this:
Energy: 278 registered lobbyists
State or local gov’t: 43
Business and retail: 27
Real estate and construction: 25
Organized labor: 16
Energy’s new dominance knocks health care out of the top dog position. The pharmaceutical industry had a banner 2007, writes the Center for Public Integrity, putting together a record $168 million lobbying effort, according to a CPI analysis of federal lobbying data. Adds CPI, “the effort raised the amount spent by drug interests on federal lobbying in the past decade to more than $1 billion.”
Top spenders within the sector in 2007:
Pharmacuetical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA): $23 million
Amgen Inc.: $16.2 million
Pfizer: $13.8 million
Roche Holding AG: $9 million
Sanofi-Aventis: $8.4 million
GlaxoSmithKline: $8.2 million
Johnson & Johnson Inc.: $7.7 million
It’s worth pointing out, however, that industry’s interests can sometimes align with society’s interests. One of Big Pharma’s lobbying priorities this past year was SCHIP, which would have made health care available to more children from low and middle income families but would have also meant more kids on meds, something that geeks Big Pharma out. On the other hand, sometimes industry’s influence is toxic. Another 2007 lobbying goal: keeping cheaper medications from foreign countries out of America, which has driven some people to disgraceful lengths to get their pills.
All of this money is part of the inertia in Washington. The energy and health care industries will be receptive to change that puts more money in their pockets, but anything that denies them profits, or make earning profits more difficult, will be met by a bulwark of resistance paid for by these tens of millions. Every relevant lawmaker and staffer will have been visited by an industry lobbyist, or been hosted at an industry event: industry’s interests will be well-known. A President Obama or a President McCain can talk about limiting the power of special interests on the campaign trail, but by the time they take the White House the special interests will have been lying in wait for years.