While overall lobbying expenditures dropped in 2011, technology companies vamped up their lobbying presence, according to recent disclosure reports.
The TV, music, and movie industries, commercial banks, telecom services providers, the mining industry, public sector unions, and advocates of reproductive rights were among those increasing their year-over-year lobbying expenses.
Google spent $9.7 million on lobbying in 2011 alone, an increase of 88% over 2010 levels, reports Brendan Sasso of The Hill's Hillicon Valley. Facebook spent $1.4 million on lobbying, an increase of 284% over the previous year. Apple spent $2.3 million on lobbying in 2011, an increase of 40% over 2010.
AT&T increased its lobbying spending 31% to $20.2 million in 2011 in the hopes of gaining regulatory approval of its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile. Interestingly, Twitter, the popular social media service, has yet to hire any lobbyists.
In all, more than $3.27 billion was spent on lobbying in 2011. This is the first year since 1999 that overall lobbying expenditures have dropped, according to the Center's preliminary analysis of lobbying reports filed with Congress last week.
Why the change in the lobbying balance? For the most part, companies found dealing with a volatile economy and the political gridlock "slowed the flow of money to K Street's hired guns," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
But the technology industry and public sector groups "continue to hire lobbyists to give them a megaphone in Washington, as well as first-class access and connections." 2011 was a big year for them, after all: Between controlling wireless spectrum, the banter around SOPA, and revamping Internet privacy policies, there was a lot to lobby about.
Companies lobby in an attempt to influence the decisions made by government officials. Assumedly, the more money they spend on lobbying, the more influencing they're doing.
"An index based on the amount of lobbying that American firms do has outperformed the broader market since its creation in 2008; data going back to 1998 show that it has done better over the longer term," reported The Economist back in October of 2011.
If you think that trend holds true, you may be interested in what companies spent the most of lobbying on 2011.
To find out, we looked at OpenSecrets.org's list of top spenders and pulled out the company names trading on the U.S. stock exchanges.
So, without further ado, here are the top 11 companies and the amount they spent on lobbying in 2011. Do you view this spending as a good sign? (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)
1. General Electric
3. AT&T: Provides telecommunication services to consumers, businesses, and other service providers worldwide. Market cap of $174.52B. In 2011 the company spent $20,230,000 on lobbying.
4. Comcast: Provides entertainment, information, and communications products and services in the United States and internationally. Market cap of $71.69B. In 2011 the company spent $19,260,000 on lobbying.
6. Verizon Communications
7. Lockheed Martin: Engages in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, operation, and sustainment of advanced technology systems and products in the areas of defense, space, intelligence, homeland security, and government information technology in the United States and internationally. Market cap of $26.68B. In 2011 the company spent $15,166,845 on lobbying.
8. Royal Dutch Shell: Major Integrated Oil & Gas Industry. Market cap of $230.29B. In 2011 the company spent $14,790,000 on lobbying. The stock has gained 10.96% over the last year.
9. United Technologies: Provides technology products and services to the building systems and aerospace industries worldwide. Market cap of $70.14B. In 2011 the company spent $14,270,000 on lobbying. The stock has lost 2.68% over the last year.
11. Northrop Grumman: Provides products, services, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding, and technical service sectors. Market cap of $15.50B. In 2011 the company spent $12,770,000 on lobbying.
Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.
Kapitall's Rebecca Lipman does not own any of the shares mentioned above.