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The best government money can buy


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The best government money can buy

Opinions expressed in thispiece are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of SNLKagan.

Ifyou sell political time, space, views or influence, this has got to be thesweet spot.

Halfwaythrough this current election cycle media and communications entities are ontrack to set a record for campaign contributions to federal candidates, and, bymy estimates, may account for over 6% of all federal campaign donationsnationwide.

With$92 million already funded in 2015 and a surge expected in federal campaignspending this year, it is not a reach to think that M&C funding will top2011-2012's prior election cycle record of $201 million.

Myanalysis is based on candidate filings with the Federal Election Commission assummarized by the Center for Responsive Politics on its comprehensive

Therehas been a lot of wind at every special interest's back since Jan. 21, 2010,when the U.S. Supreme court effectively opened the funding gates for politicaland influence spending via its historic rulingin favor of plaintiff Citizens United against defendant FEC.

Butwe have had just one two-year cycle — 2011-2012 — in a presidential electionyear since the ruling. In that cycle, nearly $3.1 billion was pumped intofederal election spending, or 5% less than was spent in the 2007-2008 cycle whencampaign spending was regulated. In contrast, federal campaign contributions byM&C special interests soared 32.3% in the 2011-2012 period versus2007-2008.

Overall,Democrats have been blessed by M&C funding this cycle almost 2-to-1 versusRepublican candidates in federal contests. That's pretty much the same splitthrough the past three election cycles despite Republicans taking control ofCongress in 2010.

Republicancandidates, however, continue to fare better than Democrats with cable andtelco contributors who are more aligned with free market, anti-regulatorysentiments on issues like M&A and net neutrality, as noted in my recentpost. In contrast,content interests are heavily aligned with Democrats as evidenced by theTV/movies/music breakout in the table above.

M&C lobby remains wellfunded, committed and engaged

Here'sanother way to look at M&C's lobbying fire power. Last year, totalexpenditures — not just campaign money — by various M&C subsectors totaled$382 million, or the fourth-highest ranked sectoramong 13 broad sectors tracked by CFRP.

M&Caccounted for nearly 12% of all money spent nationwide on lobbying federallawmakers and regulators and almost 20% of the 9,425 registered lobbyists thatattempted to influence every aspect of the federal government.

Electronicssuppliers were the largest contingent with 988 lobbyists who served 243 clientsin M&C's total army of 1,854 lobbyists representing 550 clients. Buttelecom interests (telephone utilities) and cable subsectors (included in the "telecomservices" category by CFRP) together were the second-largest subsectorwith an aggregate 837 lobbyists working for 131 clients.

The "revolvers"column on the far right in the summary table shows the percentage of lobbyistswho were federal employees (i.e., Congress, staff or federal agency) prior tobecoming lobbyists.

Specialinterest watchdogs have long been disturbed by the revolving door factor.Apparently, it's a force as well in media/telecom with "revolvers"accounting for 60% of lobbyists last year.

Withtens of billions of dollars at stake over ongoing issues like spectrum allocation,net neutrality, privacy, cybersecurity, ad fraud, edge services, streaming,mobile migration and M&A, is there any doubt that M&C corporate andindustry trade groups are going to aggressively continue seeking favor?

Here'sa breakoutof the top five entities in five key subsectors that spent tens of millions ofdollars last year trying to coax the powers that be to see things their way.

Althoughthe list of deep-pocket players is based on required disclosures of lobbyingexpenditures, there is another wave of influence seekers — including some ofthe names in this table — using legal action to gut or work around existing andcoming FCC regulations.

Itmakes me wonder if perhaps the real power for policy resides in the courts,while the high-profile posturing and theatrics in Congress is really more aboutcampaign capital formation.

Soyes, it doesn't get any better than right now for advertisers, lobbyists andlawyers. But with all this money flying around, it is still tough to gauge howgood or bad it will prove to be for America.