5 American Companies With More Influence Than Your Congressman

In politics, money talks. But money also lets you talk. It’s no secret that elected officials are bombarded by lobbyists every day (if not every hour), so it should come as no surprise that the amount of money some companies spend on their lobbying efforts would make lottery winners jealous. Companies like ...

1. Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS):


Photo Credit: Photogal

In the last four years, BCBS spent more than $88 million on their lobbying efforts. That’s almost how much they spent on lobbying in the eight years preceding 2008. Health industry lobbying overall has increased ever since Obama won his 2008 election. The obvious culprit? Obamacare. Early efforts in 2009 and 2010 were focused on killing the bill in Congress, and considering how narrowly the bill made it out of both the House and the Senate, the lobbying effort almost paid off. However, lobbying efforts now are likely to provide BCBS with the best possible outcome, given the permanence of the legislation. With so much of the program still up in the air, expect BCBS’s spending here to continue to be high for years to come.

2. Verizon and Comcast:


Photo Credit: Dave Winer

With technology growing and changing as fast as it is, it shouldn’t be surprising to see communication companies spending big to keep the government on their side. For the last decade, Verizon and Comcast have averaged about $12.5 million a year on their lobbying efforts. That money was used to give them influence over tax subsidies and loopholes that have allowed them to ultimately pay nothing in taxes, the ability to block local governments in rural areas from using federal stimulus money to build and maintain their own broadband networks, and even allowing the largest cable company and largest wireless company to merge into one super-company with incredible dominance if not a full-scale monopoly of the market. Can you hear them now? Congress does.

3. ExxonMobil:


Photo Credit: PH2 POCHE

A greedy man once said, "If you’re not part of the solution, there’s a lot of money to be made in being part of the problem." ExxonMobil listened wisely. Between BP’s Deepwater Horizon mess and Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic fiasco, ExxonMobil has been fortunate enough to stay out of the anti-oil headlines in recent years. Maybe that’s why their insidious lobbying efforts to spread misinformation about the science behind global warming and encourage more oil drilling exploration have also mostly been ignored by the media. Between 2008 and 2009, BP spent more than $55 million in lobbying to kill the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. With the legislation dead, since 2010 ExxonMobil has cut its lobbying down to a mere $13 million a year — chump change for the most valuable company in the world. With Obama promising to double his efforts on stopping global warming and the new bill submitted by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), expect ExxonMobil’s lobbying costs to rise again this year.   

4. General Electric (GE):


Photo Credit: Erikan

Since 1998, GE has spent $284 million on their lobbying efforts. That might seem like a lot to spend, so what could GE want with that much lobbying power? To become a top financial lender? To grow its share of the appliance market? To make NBC a competitive network again? Probably (well, except the NBC part even $284,040,000 isn’t enough for that to happen, and they know it).

But what they’ve really been doing is rewriting the corporate tax code in their favor. One tax break in 2004 allowing companies to defer taxes on overseas profits from leasing planes to airlines saved GE an estimated $1 billion in the following three years alone. In 2010 alone, GE claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. Yeah, that investment has paid off. 

5. Northrop Grumman:


Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

For the last decade, Northrop Grumman has mostly spent between $10-20 million a year on lobbying. Between the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, America has been a big customer for Northrop Grumman’s weapons, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk what might potentially be the most expensive weapon in human history, the F-35 bomber. Legislators seeking to save $2.5 billion by retiring the Global Hawk and potentially up to $1 trillion by ending the F-35 program have fallen by the hand of Northrop’s even more powerful weapon, though: their lobbying strategy. The upcoming sequester is the first time in a decade Northrop Grumman stands to lose ground on government contracts, but if you think the U.S. is their only buyer, think again. Lobbying disclosures have demonstrated that Northrop has been looking at other markets like South Korea. War. What is it good for? Definitely profits.