(CN) – Announcing her plan to put a tax on excessive lobbying, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday that the Washington influence machine has better funding than Congress.
“My new lobbying tax will make hiring armies of lobbyists significantly more expensive for the largest corporate influencers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, and Comcast,” the policy announcement states. “Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax revenue down the road – but in that case, all the better.”
Noting that companies spent more than $2.8 billion on lobbying last year alone, Warren said the country should tax corporations and trade groups that spend over half a million dollars per year on lobbying.
Two charts that Warren featured to illustrate her points show that some big names would be eligible for the tax. The pharmaceutical industry led in lobbying spending from 2009-18, dishing out nearly $2.5 billion. Insurance and oil and gas weren’t far behind, spending about a whopping $1.6 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively.
Individual corporations like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comcast and Lockheed Martin have also dropped millions on lobbying in the last decade, the insurer leading the way with $233 million in spending on its interests.
If a group spends between half a million and a million dollars per year on lobbying, Warren said her plan would see it taxed at 35% on those expenditures. Dollars over one million will be taxed at 60%, and over $5 million, 75%.
If the proposed tax had been in place a decade ago, Warren calculates, it would have generated $10 billion in revenue by now — money she says should go into a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund, largely to be used to inform Congress of the facts behind the issues on which it legislates, such as climate change and big tech.
Warren also mentioned the Lobbying Defense Trust Fund in a lobby-limiting plan she introduced last week to fortify the independent agencies that were once tasked with providing Congress with unbiased facts on science, finance and other complex topics.
Additionally, she’d use the money to support federal agencies that face a lot of pressure from lobbyists, according to Wednesday’s announcement.
Paid lobbyists often flood agencies with messages during public notice-and-comment periods on proposed rules, which eats up so much time that rules sometimes don’t even pass.
Lobbyists “swarm regulators and Congress, bury everyone in an avalanche of money, and strangle government action in the public interest before it even gets off the ground,” her announcement states.
If the tax doesn’t deter companies from lobbying, Warren notes, it at least creates a backup plan.
“If instead corporations continue to engage in excessive lobbying, my lobbying tax will raise even more revenue for Congress, agencies, and federal watchdogs to fight back,” the plan says.