At least 221 organizations hired 77 lobbying firms to try to influence the sweeping overhaul of food safety laws passed by the Senate last week, according to The Washington Post.
The lobbying over the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act began after the bill was introduced at the beginning of last year by Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill. Spurred by a series of nationwide food recalls and outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, the measure would give broad new authority to the FDA.
The lobbyists’ work on the Food Safety Act may not be finished, as legislators are now deciding whether a provision in the Senate version of the bill violates a constitutional requirement that any new taxes originate in the House. The procedural issue could force the Senate to vote on a new version of the bill in the current lame-duck session due to end soon, pushing the legislation to the next Congress, which would provide more opportunity for lobbyists to exercise their influence.
Some food industry organizations and corporations with a stake in the bill, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Restaurant Association, the Natural Products Association, Abbott Laboratories and Anheuser-Busch, hired multiple lobbying firms to represent their interests. Many also enlisted their own government relations staffers in the effort.
Small, specialized lobbying firms with insider knowledge of the FDA, the Department of Agriculture and related congressional committees were in especially high demand. For example, Policy Directions Inc., which specializes in food industry issues and is staffed almost entirely by former employees of the FDA, USDA or agriculture-related organizations, was hired by nine clients for food safety act work.
The Bockorny Group registered to work on the bill for 11 clients–more than any other lobbying shop in Washington. Traditional Bockorny clients, such Agri Beef Co., the American Beverage Association and the National Pork Producers Council, paid Bockorny $40,000 per quarter over the past two years for work on the food safety act and other issues. Other clients, including CVS Caremark and Abbott Laboratories, boosted payments to the firm from $60,000 to $70,000 per quarter at the end of last year.