Lobbyists in the 1% of the 1%



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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.


One way that Washington lobbyists build and maintain relationships is through campaign contributions. So it’s no surprise to see 894 individuals employed at lobbying and public relations firms show up among the 31,385 biggest individual donors – a group we named “the 1% of the 1%” after the share of the U.S. population that they represent.

Although not all of these individuals are registered as lobbyists, they all work in the lobbying industry. For shorthand, we simply call them “lobbyists” because their profession is influencing government (for more details on how we classified them, see our methodology section at the end of this post).

Though these lobbyists make up only 2.8 percent of the 1% of the 1% and only 2.0 percent of the donations (they gave a combined $34.1 million), their importance in the Washington ecosystem makes them worth a closer look.

In some ways lobbyists are similar to other 1% of the 1% donors. The median donation among lobbyists was $27,540, as compared to $26,584 for all of the 1% of the 1%. Lobbyists in the 1% of the 1% are 80.3 percent male, a little more than the 71.8 percent male for the entire 1% of the 1%. These 1% of the 1% lobbyists gave a combined $34.1 million in the 2012 election cycle.

The biggest difference is in how the lobbyists give their money. In short, they give much more directly to candidates.

While most 1% of 1% donors limited their largesse to a relative handful of candidates – the median number members of this group donated to was four – lobbyists showered their cash more widely. The median lobbyist in the 1% of the 1% gave to 19 different candidates.

Lobbyists gave 62 percent of all contributions directly to candidates, as compared to 24 percent for the entire 1% of the 1%. Lobbyists gave 20 percent to political party committees, compared to 40 percent for the entire 1% of the 1%.

They also gave much less to super PACs (just 2.5 percent of donations) than the 1% of the 1% as a whole (which gave 29.8 percent of its total contributions to super PACs). The most likely reason is that lobbyist contributions are primarily access-oriented. Lobbyists want to give their checks directly to candidates and attend candidate fundraisers, thereby building and strengthening the personal relationships on which their influence depends.

Almost three-quarters of lobbyists (72.3 percent) are highly partisan (meaning that they give at least 90 percent of donations to one party or the other). That’s a little less than the 85 percent in the 1% of the 1% as a whole. But while the partisans in the entire 1% of the 1% tilt Republican, the balance among the 1% of 1% lobbyists is almost dead-even: 36.7 percent are clearly Democrats, 35.6 percent are clearly Republicans.

The list of most generous lobbyists can also make a fun Washington parlor game.

Which lobbyist gave the most money in 2012? That would be C. Boyden Gray, who contributed $354,800, including $225,000 to super PACs. Gray served as the White House Counsel for President George H.W. Bush, and served on the board of directors of the prominent conservative group FreedomWorks (though he resigned that position after a dust-up with the organization’s president).

Which lobbyist gave to the most different candidates? That would be Edward Kutler, managing director of Mercury/Clark and Weinstock, who gave to 81 unique candidates (80 Republicans and one Democrat) in 2012. He worked as a senior advisor to Newt Gingrich, when Gingrich was speaker of the U.S. House.

Who is the most perfectly bipartisan lobbyist? That’s a four-way tie between 50-50 lobbyists:

  • Gil Genn, partner at Capitol Hill Strategic Advocates, $30,711
  • Ann Sullivan,Madison Services Group, $24,250
  • John Edward Porter, partner at Hogan Lovells, $15,250
  • Mark Mioduski, vice president of Cornerstone Government Affairs, $13,500

Which congressional candidate got the most money from 1% of the 1% lobbyists? That would be Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who got $350,526 to help him out in a close re-election bid, followed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at $296,350, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., at $271,461. In the presidential race, Mitt Romney took in $793,278 from 1% of the 1% lobbyists, as compared to $164,316 to Barack Obama.

Again, we re-emphasize that not everybody who works in the lobbying industry is a registered lobbyist. But it is notable to see so that much money from the lobbying world went to Obama, since Obama has twice made a campaign pledge not to take any money from lobbyists. However, he has sometimes struggled to draw firm lines. He has also sometimes refunded contributions to lobbyists.

The Top 10 Lobbyists by donation are presented below. Full data on all lobbyists in the 1% of the 1% can be viewed here.

Name Employer Total contributions
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


Methodology and Disclaimer

We should note that not everyone in the 1% of the 1% lobbyist category is actually a registered lobbyist. Again, we construe lobbyist in a broader sense here, to include individuals who work in the influence industry even if they are not always registered as lobbyists. Our data come from the Center for Responsive Politics, and we filtered on the contributor sector code “K2000,” which covers all individuals employed by lobbying firms and DC-based public-relations firms, as well as registered lobbyists who work in law firms.

For caveats on the totals from our bulk data, read our methodology and notes section from our main post.