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Elizabeth Warren pitches new tax on ‘excessive lobbying’

Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Elizabeth Warren.Elizabeth Frantz/The New York Times

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday proposed a steep new tax on what she called “excessive lobbying,” adding another plank to an expansive anti-corruption plan that aims to weaken the influence of special interests in the federal governement.

Her proposal would hit companies and industry groups that spend more than $500,000 per year lobbying Congress and federal agencies with a 35 percent tax on their expenditures above that level. The rate jumps to 60 percent for any spending above $1 million, and 75 percent for spending more than $5 million.

In a post on the website Medium, the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful said the new tax “will reduce the incentive for excessive lobbying, and raise money that we can use to fight back against this kind of onslaught when it occurs.”

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Warren cited a campaign analysis of data from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics that found the tax would have raised an estimated $10 billion over the last ten years from 1,600 companies and groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Realtors, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Walmart, and Exxon.

“Nobody will be surprised that the top five industries that would have paid the highest lobbying taxes are the same industries that have spent the last decade fighting tooth and nail against popular policies: Big Pharma, health insurance companies, oil and gas companies, Wall Street firms, and electric utilities,” Warren wrote.

Revenue raised from the tax would establish a “Lobbying Defense Trust Fund” that would support a previously announced Warren proposal: a revival of the Office of Technology Assessment that once provided information about complex technical matters to members of Congress.

The tax revenue would also bolster federal agencies facing an onslaught of industry opposition to new rules, and create an “Office of the Public Advocate” that would ensure federal agencies weighing new rules hear from members of the public.

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The lobbying tax proposal comes as Warren rises in the polls nationally and in early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Last month, she announced her anti-corruption plan before a crowd of thousands in Manhattan, near the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. factory fire that killed more than 140 workers and spurred a change in labor laws.

The plan would ban lobbyists from many fund-raising activities and serving as political campaign bundlers, tighten limits on politicians accepting gifts or payment for government actions and bar senior officials and members of Congress from serving on nonprofit boards.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.