Koch Industries has amped up its lobbying spending in 2014.
The company has spent nearly $9.5 million on its advocacy operations so far this year, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed with the Senate. That's a significant hike from the almost $8 million that the oil and gas giant spent on lobbying at this point last year and comes with the company dropping $4 million on K Street efforts during this past quarter alone -- a surge from the $2.7 million that Koch spent in each of the year's previous quarters.
That amount of lobbying money makes Koch Industries one of Washington, D.C.'s biggest influence spenders so far this year, outranking energy competitors such as Exxon Mobil Corp., which has spent about $9.2 million on lobbying so far in 2014.
A Koch Industries spokesman declined to comment for this article.
Koch Industries has become synonymous with its CEO, Charles Koch, and his brother, Executive Vice President David Koch. This year, the Koch brothers have come under relentless attack from Democrats and liberal-leaning groups for their support of conservative organizations that are active on the campaign trail for the midterm elections.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has taken to the Senate floor repeatedly to lambaste the Kochs, saying the brothers control the Republican Party (E&E Daily, April 8).
Koch Industries has added to its lobbying team this year after facing the onslaught from Reid and others. The company signed up an additional three lobbying firms in 2014, including the Nickles Group LLC, headed up by former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) (Greenwire, June 9). That brought its total of registered lobbying firms to a dozen this past quarter, according to records.
Koch lobbied on several energy bills up this Congress, according to its latest quarterly filing. But the company advocated on issues outside of the energy realm, including the "Disclose Act," which would boost disclosure of those behind political spending.
Monday was the deadline for companies, trade groups, environmental organizations and others to file their third-quarter reports under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The filings detail how much is spent on lobbyists as well as what they have been lobbying on.
Many of those issues -- from energy, environment and beyond -- have become mired in gridlock on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers concentrate more on their own re-election rather than crafting legislation. Instead, much of the action in Washington, D.C., has come from the Obama administration.
Year of 'defense' for enviros
Major regulations proposed by the administration, such as U.S. EPA's power plant rule to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and controversial water measure, have attracted support from environmental groups while sparking opposition from several industry trade associations.
"There was a great deal of defense when it came to our lobbying. There were scores of votes in the House to block and delay many of these environmental rules," said Melinda Pierce, legislative director for the Sierra Club. "It has been a lot of defense, but fortuitously, many of these bad ideas have been dead on arrival in the Senate."
The group has spent $280,000 on lobbying so far this year, a slight uptick from this point in 2013, when it spent $240,000. Pierce said she can see Republicans wanting to block those rules, come the lame-duck session, when time will be short for Congress.
"We worry as we face the must-pass bills -- the appropriations or CR and the defense authorization -- that they will be magnets for anti-environmental riders," Pierce said. "We are doing direct lobbying, but we're also getting our grass roots out in the districts to talk to their members about leaving these rules alone."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also increased its lobbying spending to more than $500,000 so far in 2014 -- more than the $366,000 the group spent at this point in 2013. NRDC has garnered attention for its role in EPA's power plant rule, with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) accusing the group of having a cozy relationship with the agency.
Among other environmental groups, the League of Conservation Voters has spent $150,000 so far in 2014 on advocacy, while the Environmental Defense Action Fund spent $880,000 on lobbying.
Industry groups' lobbying spending has been much greater, with several spending millions of dollars on K Street.
America's Natural Gas Alliance has dropped about $1.1 million on lobbying so far this year. Frank Macchiarola, the group's executive vice president for government affairs, said the Obama administration's rules are a focus for ANGA, which is also interested in speeding up approval of LNG export applications.
"We're laser-focused on increasing the use and demand for natural gas," Macchiarola said.
Other trade groups also spent big on lobbying, though some have spent less than they did at this point in 2013.
The Edison Electric Institute, a powerful organization representing utilities, has spent $6.6 million on lobbying in 2014 so far, down from the $7.4 million the group spent during 2013's first three quarters.
The American Petroleum Institute has also spent $6.6 million on lobbying this year, just short of the $6.7 million it spent at this point last year.
Other business associations have hiked their advocacy efforts.
The Nuclear Energy Institute has spent $1.7 million on influence in 2014 so far, more than its $1.6 million expenditure for three quarters in 2013. In addition, the National Mining Association has increased its lobbying spending to more than $4 million so far this year (Greenwire, Oct. 21).
Lobbyists are expecting a busy lame-duck session once Congress returns to Washington after the elections. Tax extenders will need action by lawmakers, for one thing.
"When it comes to the lame-duck session, our focus is going to be on tax extenders and whether these clean-energy tax credits can go through," said Elizabeth Gore, a policy director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck LLP.
In addition, more regulations on coal ash and ozone standards could come out before the end of this year.
"Those may generate some additional legislative activity," Gore said.
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