In national politics, the influence of money is a perennial concern, and the 2012 election cycle has involved a particular frenzy of campaign spending. But to focus exclusively on election spending is to overlook the staggering sums—more than $3 billion every year since 2008—that are devoted to old-fashioned lobbying.
To an outsider, the variety of organizations that seek influence in Washington can be startling. There is the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild. There is a lobby for duck hunters and one for motorcyclists. The astonishing diversity of organizations that lobby might give the impression that they represent the full spectrum of American life, from pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce to unions like the AFL-CIO, and from right to left—with plenty of groups, like the National Safety Council, that have no obvious ideological coloration.