OpenSecrets.org released its list of third-quarter lobbying expenditures, noting which industries spent the most on lobbying.
Unfortunately, a critical variable is missing that makes the list largely meaningless.
Lobbying expenditures may reflect a special interest's wish for special treatment. But it frequently, and perhaps at least as often, reflects an attempt to avoid being on the agenda. Congressmen know this, and call for lawmaking affecting industries that spend on lobbying. There's a lot of churn in Washington that reflects politician rent-seeking rather than corporate rent-seeking. One cannot tell from a list of lobbying expenditures who's victimizing with manipulative legislative favors or being victimized by being forced to pay protection money to avoid unfair government regulation.
Relatedly, Tyler Cowen notes a pharmaceutical industry agreement to pay $300 million to the FDA to bolster inspections and speed drug applications. The New York Times views this as industry wanting more regulation and "an extraordinary vote of confidence in the government's ability to improve the situation" when it really reflects the disastrous effect of government regulation that forces the industry to spend more to avoid even greater costs of delay. That's a wealth transfer from productive sectors of the economy to government bureaucrats, at the expense of patients.