Lobbying frenzy connected to stimulus sparks backlash – By Alex Gangitano (The Hill) / March 25 2020
The frenzy on K Street over the coronavirus stimulus bill is sparking a new backlash.
Watchdog groups have seized on the activity as major industries push for financial relief and other assistance from Washington. K Street’s critics say the lobbying boom highlights the need for tougher controls on the influence industry and accuse businesses of using the coronavirus crisis to push through long-standing priorities they say go beyond immediate economic relief.
Those frustrations have also found expression in the $2.1 trillion House Democratic stimulus proposal, which includes a lobbying ban for companies that receive government aid until the funds are repaid. It would also ban corporations that receive a loan for coronavirus relief from giving bonuses to executives, buying back their own stock, and paying out dividends to shareholders.
The stimulus deal being worked out in the Senate is likely to include restrictions on corporate compensation and stock buybacks but not a lobbying ban. But lobbying watchdogs say the House language highlights their growing concerns with K Street, which is one of the few industries enjoying a boom amid the crisis.
“The COVID crisis is shaking up Washington, and since more stimulus packages are likely to be on the table, we expect K Street to continue to ratchet up their attention and spending,” Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen, told The Hill. “With that backdrop, putting limits on the corporations that receive taxpayer dollars in bailouts is just common sense.”
Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, supports language that would require companies that receive government help to forego lobbying.