Lobbyist Spending Breaks Records in 2022

June 20, 2023


  • Lobbying spending set a new all-time-high in 2022
  • More and more counties are paying for lobbyists in Raleigh
  • Pay-to-play influence is increasingly the norm


Back in January, we published a summary of spending on registered lobbyists in North Carolina’s state legislature in the 2021 year (see: The Lobbyists Had a Big 2021). In 2021 alone, businesses and special interest organizations spent a staggering $64 million on lobbying the members of our state legislature, a new record. Yet it was only a prelude to what was to follow.

Based on brand-new data from the NC Secretary of State’s office, 2022 broke the previous year’s record and set an all-time high for lobbying spending in the North Carolina General Assembly: a whopping $65.3 million.

Who’s lobbying in Raleigh?

In order to formally lobby members of the state legislature to support or oppose legislation, firms and special interest organizations of all stripes are required to register lobbyists with the Secretary of State. In 2022, 1,071 different firms and organizations reported doing so, thus becoming “principals” for registered lobbyists. All combined, these entities spent over $65 million on lobbying activities, as shown in this chart, which breaks down principals by their total amount spent:

Information about registered lobbyists, the principals (firms or organizations) who hire them, and amount those principals spend, is all public information available on an annual basis from the North Carolina Secretary of State's office. Readers can find a Google Sheet with the complete information used for these graphics at this link.

The five largest lobbying principals in 2022 were, in order:

  • The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce: $887,625
  • Duke Energy: $840,992
  • NC Healthcare Association: $683,949
  • NC Farm Bureau: $635,729
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC: $559,764

The large majority of lobbying principals, 87%, were relatively "small," meaning that they spent under $100,000. Mid-range and Large principals, which spent between $100k-$200k and $200k-$500k respectively, were the most disproportionate in their amount spent.

Lobbying by counties

In 2022, 19 county governments paid registered lobbyists to represent their interests in the General Assembly, up from 11 in 2021. So did a number of cities around the state. Why the representatives from these counties, ostensibly elected for the very purpose of representing the interests of those counties in the legislature, were unable or unwilling to do so, isn't clear. Nevertheless, there is no strong pattern: both urban and rural counties, as well as "blue" and "red" leaning ones, spent considerable taxpayer money to lobby in the General Assembly:

Cost of doing business

Passing major legislation in today's General Assembly is increasingly a "pay to play" proposition. The same organizations that lead the pack in lobbying above are also among the biggest spenders on North Carolina political campaigns and on "dark money" political ads. Thus, the rapid growth of lobbying spending shouldn't be seen as adversarial with the lawmakers in charge, but more as a result therefrom. With a legislature gerrymandered for comfortable control by one party, lobbyists face the challenge of heightened competition among themselves for a smaller number of lawmakers who can pass bills. This has led to a sharp increase in the "cost of doing business."

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