Elizabeth Warren calls for new tax on 'excessive lobbying'

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday unveiled a new plan to crack down on the multibillion-dollar lobbying industry, proposing a tax on “excessive” lobbying expenditures.

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Under the Massachusetts Democrat’s proposal — the latest in a slew of calls for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — companies that spend between $500,000 and $1 million per year on lobbying would be required to pay a 35 percent tax. That tax would climb to 60 percent for lobbyists that spend more than $1 million, and 75 percent for those exceeding $5 million.

Warren, one of the first 2020 hopefuls to eschew lobbyist donations, said funds from the tax will be funneled back to a “Lobbying Defense Trust” that can be used to support Congress and the federal agencies so they can “fight back against the effort to bury public interest actions by the government.”

Money from the tax would also help to establish a new Office of the Public Advocate, Warren said, which would help Americans better interact with government.

Her campaign estimated the tax would have generated $10 billion in revenue over the last 10 years from 1,600 different corporations and trade groups. At least 51 of those businesses, including Koch Industries, Pfizer, Boeing, Microsoft, Walmart and Exxon -- all of which spent more than $5 million annually on lobbying, would have been hit with the 75 percent tax rate

“My new lobbying tax will make hiring armies of lobbyists significantly more expensive for the largest corporate influencers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, and Comcast,” Warren wrote in the proposal. “Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax revenue down the road – but in that case, all the better.”

In August 2018, she first introduced sweeping anti-corruption legislation before she announced her presidential candidacy. If elected, Warren said, passing the package of anti-corruption bills -- which include a lifetime lobbying ban for lawmakers and politicians, including the president and vice president, and a ban on members of Congress from serving on corporate boards  -- would be her first priority.

The tax is one of the many plans Warren has introduced to crack down on corruption in Washington. Experts, however, caution that limiting lobbying causes the industry to go underground -- not die. Via loopholes and poor enforcement, as well as grassroots campaigns and third-party validators, lobbyists are frequently able to escape detection.