Lobbying remains lucrative during pandemic

Health care interests very active in 1st half of year

[CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story and the chart on lobbying firm revenues contained inaccurate information about the revenues of the Suffolk Group. Revenues during the first half off 2019 were $881,147, not the $1,827,842 reported. The larger number was the revenue for all of 2019. As a result, the Suffolk Group’s revenues during the first half of 2020 actually increased 12 percent.]

EVEN IN A PANDEMIC,  lobbying is continuing on Beacon Hill.

Records covering the first half of 2020 indicate the 10 biggest spenders on lobbying during the first half of 2020 spent almost the same amount as the 10 biggest spenders in 2019, even though COVID-19 hit the state hard in early March and is continuing to curtail legislative activity on Beacon Hill.

The top 10 spenders in the first half of 2020 spent just under $3 million, while the top 10 during the first half of 2019 spent just over $3 million.

Health care groups accounted for 74 percent of the expenditures made by the 10 biggest spenders in the first half of 2020, up from 58 percent in 2019. The top four spots were all occupied by health care interests, including the Massachusetts Health and Hospitals Association, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and Mass General Brigham. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the Association for Behavioral Health Care, and Beth Israel Lahey Health occupied the sixth, eighth, and ninth slots, respectively.

“Health care spending is getting stronger. It’s really picked up,” said Jim Smith, one of the partners at Smith, Costello & Crawford, the state’s largest lobbying firm in terms of revenue.

Smith says lobbying during COVID is like many other sectors of the economy. He says he still talks regularly with clients and lawmakers, but instead of in-person visits the meetings are all done by phone and Zoom.

Of the 14 largest lobbying firms in Massachusetts, 11 saw their revenues increase in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2019. Two firms, Dempsey Lucey and Associates and Preti Strategies, saw their revenues increase 31 percent. Three firms, meanwhile, saw their revenues decline. Revenues fell 26 percent at ML Strategies and 12 percent at Rasky Partners.

Smith said the second half of 2020 should be strong, in part because the Legislature put off acting on a state budget until later this year. The state budget is the most significant piece of legislation passed each year on Beacon Hill, setting policy and spending priorities in a number of areas.

 

“It will be a very busy even-numbered year (election year) because the budget is not done,” Smith said. “Usually it’s very slow.”

 

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

[A correction was made to the chart showing the biggest spenders on lobbying after the firm Anbaric Development said its lobbying expenditures were listed in the Secretary of State’s website incorrectly. Anbaric was removed from the chart and replaced with the firm Getaround.]