January 23, 2018 / 3:05 AM / 4 months ago

U.S. business group lobbying surged as tax reform took shape

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lobbying by U.S. business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable surged in the last three months of 2017 as lawmakers negotiated and finalized legislation that deeply cut the taxes companies pay.

Clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol at the start of the third day of a shut down of the federal government in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The amount spent on lobbying by the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executive officers at the largest U.S. companies, nearly quadrupled to $17.35 million in the fourth quarter from $4.53 million in the third quarter, according to lobbyist disclosures published on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed the massive tax overhaul into law in December, slashing the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent.

Lobbying expenditures by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful business group in Washington, jumped to $16.83 million in the last three months of 2017 from $13.12 million from July through September.

“Tax reform was a top priority for manufacturers, who will now be able to invest more, hire more and provide their workers more due to our relentless advocacy,” an official with the National Association of Manufacturers said.

Spending on lobbyists by the manufacturers group rose to $2.4 million from $1.3 million, quarter over quarter.

More than half of the registered lobbyists in Washington worked on tax issues in 2017, according to a report from the advocacy group Public Citizen published last year, as lawmakers in Washington scrambled to conclude a year-long effort to pass a tax reform bill before Christmas.

The Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce also spent millions of dollars on television and radio commercials in congressional districts across the country urging voters to pressure their representatives to support the tax bill.

“Business Roundtable members collectively employ more than 16 million people. BRT pushed for tax reform that will allow U.S. businesses to compete and win, benefiting American workers,” said Jessica Boulanger, a senior vice president with the Business Roundtable in a statement.

The Business Roundtable is led by Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Other members include the CEOs of Northrop Grumman Corp, Johnson & Johnson and General Motors Co.

The Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment.

Lobbyists played an outsized role in shaping the tax overhaul.

Republican Congressman Kevin Brady, chairman of the tax-writing U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, told Reuters last year that an aggressive corporate lobbying effort derailed a Republican-backed border tax, forcing lawmakers working on tax reform to seek alternatives.

Reporting by Chris Sanders; Editing by Richard Pullin and Jeffrey Benkoe

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