In the 2012 election 28 percent of all disclosed political contributions came from just 31,385 people. In a nation of 313.85 million, these donors represent the 1% of the 1%, an elite class that increasingly serves as the gatekeepers of public office in the United States.
Compared to other big campaign donors, lobbyists spread their money around. And because they seek access to lawmakers to push for their clients’ interests, they give more of their contributions directly to candidates as opposed to party committees and super PACs.
That’s according to a new Sunlight Foundation report on the lobbyists in the “one percent of the one percent,” the rarefied group of about 31,385 well-heeled insiders that give at least $12,950 to political campaigns.
So what do these lobbysits want to get done? In particular, what about ones giving the most? Of all the players in Washington’s influence business, here is a list of the 10 who gave more than anyone else in the 2012 election:
|Gray, C Boyden||Boyden Gray & Associates||$354,800|
|Woods, Andrew L||Liberty Partners Group||$210,100|
|Podesta, Heather||Heather Podesta + Partners, Llc||$191,800|
|Cassidy, Gerald||Cassidy & Associates||$182,000|
|Podesta, Anthony||Podesta Group||$164,200|
|Elmendorf, Steve||Elmendorf Ryan||$146,400|
|Champlin, Steven M||The Duberstein Group, Inc.||$136,400|
|Kies, Kenneth J||Federal Policy Group||$135,449|
|Hohlt, Richard||Hohlt & Associates||$135,100|
|Walter, Jeffery M||The Walter Group||$125,530|
Apart from two on the list, Democratic super-lobbyist and bundler couple Anthony and Heather Podesta, whose have been extensively profiled, here’s a look at the other eight who gave at least $125,000 in the 2012 cycle, from the least biggest donor on up.
A national fundraiser for the GOP, Walter opened his own lobby shop in 2001, and has attracted big-name clients in Wall Street and the telecom industry. He was snatched up by a top lobbying firm -- Capitol Counsel -- earlier this month for his services. Walter is a former fundraising consultant at the NRSC and former fundraiser to senators who worked on finance committees – GOP New York Sen. Al D’Amato and Connie Mack of Florida.
If his clients move with him, he will be working for—-no surprise—-the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), a prominent Wall Street trade association, JPMorgan Chase, and a lot of telecom and cable giants like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and National Cable and Telecommunications Association. He has also represented defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
For SIFMA and JPMorgan Chase, Walter works on Dodd-Frank implementation and general tax issues, according to his lobbying reports. For Comcast, he lobbies on tax matters and cybersecurity. Like many other big companies, Comcast supported CISPA, the controversial cybersecurity bill that passed the House this year. CISPA aims to increase information sharing between the government and private sector.
For Time Warner, he is trying to pass the Next Generation Television Marketing Act, a bill that could help cable companies at the expense of broadcasters. Introduced by former conservative Sen. Jim Demint, R-S.C., the bill would, for example, nix the rules that says cable companies are required carry broadcast TV channels.
The GOP beltway power broker and fundraiser is a founder of an elite, informal gathering of GOP insiders known as the “Off-the-Record Club." He has been criticized for his role as the top lobbyist for the savings and loan industry in the early 1980s, for which he has admitted mistakes. He pushed to block regulation that would have helped stave off that era’s banking crisis.
In 2009, The New York Times reported that he was hired as a political advisor to the chairman of Citibank, which was in disarray from the financial crisis and had received billions in bailout loans from the government. The chairman hired him to keep him in touch with the “mood and tenor” of Washington, not lobby.
He is legally registered to lobby for a few clients, including Chevron, BMW and tobacco conglomerate Altria Group. On his lobbying disclosure forms, he provides only the vaguest details of the issues he pursues. Instead Hohlt simply discloses that he works on a general issue area such as banking on behalf of BMW and, below that, that he works on “all legislation relating to above issues." He repeats this tactic for other clients.
The Republican tax specialist and former chief of staff on Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation is the managing director the Federal Policy Group, which specializes in tax lobbying. He represents some heavy hitters: Trade associations like the American Bankers Association, the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America and the Edison Electric Institute, Fortune 500 companies like General Electric and Microsoft and some big health sector companies.
Some of the biggest recipients of his campaign contributions are members of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee including its chairman, Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., and members of its counterpart, the Senate Finance Committee, including ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Many of the same issues appear on his lobbying reports almost regardless of client, including a research and development tax credit and international tax provisions. His disclosures also contain more than their fair share of tax jargon, with terms like "nonqualified deferred compensation" appearing with some frequency.
Champlin, who served as executive director of the House Democratic Caucus in the early 1990s, is a vice president at the Duberstein Group, which represents a who’s who of the some of the biggest companies in seemingly every industry – from GM to Pfizer to Pepsi and BP.
He lobbies on implementation of Obamacare, specifically on decreasing the fees imposed by the bill on the health insurance firms, which his client, trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, claims will be passed on to consumers. He also disclosed lobbying on the rate the the government pays insurance companies through the Medicare Advantage plan. Earlier this year, the executive branch responded to the pressure from AHIP and its lobbyists, reversing their plan to decrease rates by 2.3 percent and instead increasing them by 3.3 percent.
For the financial industry, he is working on a whole slew of issues on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of big U.S. companies, which has tried to block implentation (or get laws passed to stop) some key provisions of Dodd-Frank law passed in 2010. Champlin lobbies on a slew of pro-industry bills that roll back the Dodd-Frank law, including H.R. 677, which exempts many derivatives from the requirement that banks trade them on separate accounts. The bill passed a House committee in March.
He also lobbies for the Federation of Korean Industries. Along with other lobbyists, he successfully pushed to include a special provision in the immigration overhaul to give more high-skilled visas specifically to South Koreans.
One of the most prominent Democratic lobbyists, Elmendorf was chief of staff to House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and a past senior advisor to John Kerry and Hillary Clinton’s presidential rings.
His clients span major industries from tech giants Facebook and Microsoft, manufacturers like General Electric and Ford, financial forms like Goldman Sachs and Citibank.
For Citigroup, he is lobbying on House bills that would ease restrictions on banks put in place by the Dodd-Frank law including one that would allow foreign subsidiaries of U.S. banks to avoid the new regulations on derivatives. For GE, a company that may park more money overseas than any other U.S. company to avoid paying U.S. taxes, he lobbies on taxes. United Health hired him to lobby on Obamacare implementation. For the American Wind Energy Association, he and his colleagues are pushing for tax breaks that benefit wind power. For the Louisville, Ky.-based Churchill Downs, Elmendorf lobbies on legislation that would legalize and regulate online gambling. Churchill Downs’ is already in that business -- it launched a website last year thanks to an exception in gambling laws that allow interstate online betting on horse racing.
Gerald Cassidy, a Democrat, CEO and founder of the lobbying and PR shop Cassidy and Associates, became one of the rare lobbyists who has given a large contribution to a super PAC when he contributed $60,000 to the Senate Majority PAC, which supports Senate Democrats. He gave a similar amount to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the last election. His biggest beneficiaries last cycle were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y..
He only reports lobbying for a couple of clients, including Boston University, for which he is trying to secure funding for traumatic brain injury research. The House Appropriations Committee recommended increasing research in the Defense Department bill it passed in June 2012.
He also lobbies for Ocean Spray Cranberries on cranberry research and a “market access” program in the appropriations committee bill for the Department of Agriculture.
Andrew Woods, the former legal counsel to North Carolina Gov. James Hunt, a Democrat, and political advisor to former GOP Florida Sen. Connie Mack, gives mostly to Democrats but to some select Republicans. His firm, Liberty Partners Group, has given jobs to both Mack and his son, Connie Mack IV, who recently retired from Congress after failing in his bid to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and follow in his father's footsteps.
Woods focuses on representing health care companies in cancer care. He serves as a fundraiser for Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Debbie Stabenow , D-Mich. and Ben Carbin, D-Md and he is close to members of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, according to his official bio.
He lobbies for cancer care organizations like 21st Century Oncology and the American College of Radiation Oncology on Medicare payments to health providers, who are hoping for a permanent solution to a law that cuts Medicare payments to healthcare providers by more than 20 percent annually unless Congress overrides it. The Hill reported in May that there is enthusiasm in the Senate Finance Committee for a permanent fix. House Republicans want to move forward with a similar bill this summer.
Woods also lobbies for the Dental Group Practice Association and the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, an association of home healthcare companies, on government payments and policies towards the industry, according to lobbying disclosures.
C. Boyden Gray, the former White House counsel to George H.W. Bush and ambassador to the European Union, is now a lobbyist and a board member of two 501(c)4 groups that aim to elect Republicans to Congress: The establishment American Action Network and the Tea Party-linked FreedomWorks. He also gave a whopping $250,000 to super PACs supporting GOP candidates, making him the most generous lobbyist contributor in the 2012 election.
Gray did not report lobbying for any clients in the first quarter of this year. But as recently as the fourth quarter of last year, he worked for Exelon, the country’s biggest electric utility, on the extension of the wind energy tax credit. The company got what it wanted--the one-year extension of the tax credit was included in the fiscal cliff deal between President Obama and congressional Repuplicans in January.
He also recently lobbied for another electric utility, FirstEnergy, counseling them on “energy, environmental and admnistrative law matters” and lobbying on the EPA’s regulatory agenda, which included the first ever limit on carbon emissions that new power plants could emit.