Democrats Took More Lobbying Money than Republicans (***Updated***)

Charles Hurt reports that Democrats have taken slightly more money from lobbyists than Republicans over the last 15 years.

Democrats have taken more money from lobbyists than Republicans during the past 15 years, according to an independent analysis of campaign contributions. Since the 1990 election cycle, Democrats have accepted more than $53 million from lobbyists while Republicans have taken more than $48 million for their election campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Data provided by the nonpartisan group also shows that when Democrats controlled Congress in the early 1990s, they consistently hauled in more than 70 percent of the town’s lobbyist money. The group is a leading critic of Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay’s ties to lobbyists. “When the Democrats were in charge, they were getting an incredibly higher amount of lobbyist money compared to Republicans,” said Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Now that the tables are turned there is parity between the two parties.” Last year, for instance, Republicans took in 55 percent of the lobbyist money, which roughly corresponds to their majority share in Congress.

The Center for Responsive Politics claims to be non-partisan and, judging by its major sponsors, is. If they have the study somewhere on their website, I have been unable to locate it.

It is unclear whether the figures refer only to private campaign donations or includes soft money given to the parties. Nor is it clear whether they adjust for inflation. Including soft money would tend to make this tilt Democratic, since it was outlawed in 2004, not enough to compensate for the fact that 1990 dollars were much more valuable than 2000 dollars or the fact that the GOP controlled Congress for roughly 2/3 of the period in question.

Rewrote commentary after excerpt after more carefully reading the story.

Update: I emailed both Mr. Hurt and the CRP shortly after posting the story. I have not heard back from Hurt but the CRP’s Communications Director, Massie Ritsch, responded:

We were a little surprised to see that “analysis” in today’s Washington Times, because it’s not new information—it’s always publicly available at our website and has been for years. The Times was citing our figures for the lobbying industry: how much individuals and PACs associated with lobbying firms have given in campaign contributions. It’s viewable here:

Keep in mind that the “lobbying industry” does not include lobbyists who work in-house. We include only lobbyists employed by lobbying firms. If a lobbyist is employed by a trade association or a corporation, their contribution is included in the total for the interest for which the trade association advocates—pharmaceutical, labor, tobacco, etc.

For years in which soft money was allowed (pre-2004 cycle), soft money is included in these totals. You can see at the above link how much was soft money.

Given how prominently the story was placed–in the top right spot on their website–this is quite bizarre. Unless there is something spectacular that I’m missing here, this hardly qualifies as news. This amounts to a front page editorial disguised as news.

Here’s the summary table from the link:

Photo:  Lobbyists:
Long-Term Contribution Trends

    †These numbers show how the industry ranks in total campaign giving as compared to more than 80 other industries. Rankings are shown only for industries (such as the Automotive industry) — not for widely encompassing “sectors” (such as Transportation) or more detailed “categories” (like car dealers).

    *These figures do not include donations of “Levin” funds to state and local party committees. Levin funds were created by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

So, basically, the Democrats spectacularly “outperformed” the Republicans for the first three years of the survey period, after which contributions more or less tracked with who was in office. Presenting this based on a fifteen year base period and not mentioning that fact is dubious, to say the least.

Update 2: Hurt emailed back while I was composing the previous update:

The figures do not include donations to PACs, only individual campaign accounts. That gets a bit more complicated for a variety of reasons but I suspect that a thorough analysis of such money going to pacs would find that republicans have well outstipped dems on that.

Fair enough–although perhaps something that should have been noted in the story.

Update 3: A second email from Hurt puts this into better context:

I’ve just picked up this whole ethics beat after covering filibusters/supreme court nominations all last year. indeed, it’s truly astonishing that no one has reported this data before now. I gather it’s been there the whole time everybody has been writing stories about the culture of corruption, but no one chooses to include it. Don’t get me wrong, i would never suggest that there’s any tilt to my business, but it’s something of an oversight.

What we have, essentially, is someone new to a beat stumbling on some data and seeing an Aha! moment.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jonk says:

    It really doesn’t matter who takes *more*…anyone that has been around the block at least once knows that lobbying money greases the skids in DC. But I do find this fact funny, if indeed it is true.

  2. Christopher says:

    Lobbying is supported by the constitution.

    What is interesting is the D’s try to act like it is evil and that republicans are the worst offenders. So its nice to know that both sides are equal.

    Maybe D’s can claim to he electorate that they are more pure because thy feel the most guilt over it (hypocrisy not withstanding).

  3. Craig says:

    The study, presuming it exists, doesn’t seem to have made the CRP’s list of recent press releases, either. I trust the CRP, the Wash Times much less so.

  4. Craig says:

    Looking further, the article may be referring to the career profiles feature on the CRP’s site. It doesn’t quite make the claim in the article, as far as I can see, but related data is there.

  5. Herb says:

    And the rest of you Dems:


    Or, is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black??

  6. anjin-san says:

    Both parties are bought & paid for, this is news?

  7. G A PHILLIPS says:

    A lot more!

  8. Ralph Perna Sr. says:

    What you see from here is not what you see from there…

    What’s the big deal,money talks,that’s what made this country the greatest in creation ever,it is all about trying to get Bush,thats all the radical left democratic media is all about,the media in this country learned about propaganda from Hitler.When are we in this great country going to wake up and concentrate on the real problems that are eating us up alive,democratic agenda, only one “get Bush”.