Congress

Record lobbying tab racked up by FreedomWorks on health care

Conservative group spent more in third quarter alone than all of last year combined

Activists participate in a rally hosted by FreedomWorks on Sept. 26, 2018. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

The conservative lobbying and grassroots group FreedomWorks disclosed spending more than $2.7 million, the most it ever has reported shelling out, for federal lobbying campaigns in just three months this year.

Opposition to health care proposals such as “Medicare for All” and a Democrat-backed bill that would rein in prescription drug prices drove much of the work, said Jason Pye, FreedomWorks’ vice president of legislative affairs.

[Educating K Street: Colleges and universities seek influence in Congress, executive branch]

FreedomWorks last year disclosed spending nearly $1.9 million on lobbying for the entire 12 months, according to lobbying reports. In just the period from July 1 through Sept. 30 of this year, FreedomWorks disclosed spending $2.7 million, the group disclosed in its third-quarter lobbying report filed to the clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate. Pye confirmed in a phone interview that the disclosure was accurate.

“We are spending a lot of time on health care in our office,” Pye said, adding that many of the expenses that FreedomWorks reported were aimed at mobilizing its network of grassroots activists to contact their members of Congress.

Health care policy has been the dominant policy issue on K Street this year, according to CQ Roll Call’s Political MoneyLine, which tracks such spending.

But FreedomWorks’ exponential increase is notable in itself.

In the first quarter of 2019, FreedomWorks disclosed spending $360,000 on federal lobbying, while it reported parting with $700,000 in the second quarter of this year, previously its biggest quarter.

[House Democrats move forward with drug pricing bill]

The conservative organization also disclosed lobbying on budget and appropriations matters as well as a bill that would require people who form corporations or limited liability companies to disclose the owners of those concerns, recent lobbying records show. The group also lobbied on trade and environmental policy, according to its third-quarter report.

Pye said he couldn’t estimate whether the group’s spending on lobbying would remain as high in the current fourth quarter, covering Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

“I would imagine we’re going to continue doing actions on health care proposals that take the wrong approach,” he said.

FreedomWorks reported $4.3 million in total revenue in its 2017 tax filing, according to its publicly available form 990.

The nonprofit group says on its website that it is a collection of “over 6 million Americans who are passionate about promoting free markets and individual liberty.”

The group is a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization that is not required to disclose its donors.

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