The number of clients looking for help navigating the appropriations process has taken a sharp decline. Last year, about 3,500 clients retained lobbyists for help in budget and appropriations matters, according to Lobbying Disclosure Act data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Back in 2009, even after earmarks had been increasingly tainted, more than 5,200 clients had their lobbyists focused on appropriators.
“I’m not sure it’s ever going to be the same,” said Jim Dyer, a lobbyist with the Podesta Group who previously served as staff director and clerk of the House Appropriations Committee. “Opponents of earmarks, they won. And look what they got: complete paralysis.”
Lobbyists such as Dyer and their clients have changed the way they approach government grants, finding workarounds to the lack of appropriations. They spend more time identifying federal agency programs and scouting out state and municipal programs they can compete for.
“Most of us on the outside will be able to survive what I think is pure insanity,” said Dyer, a Republican. “But don’t these folks on the Hill need some type of deeper involvement in spending decisions, or are they content to have this administration decide where to spend this money?”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.