Corporate lobbies are biggest EU lobby spenders, and biggest liars

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Over three-quarters of the entries in the EU lobby register, in which lobbyists are encouraged to list data when visiting the European Commission or European Parliament are misleading, according to new research by LobbyFacts. The EP register is supposedly obligatory, but the Commission continues to use a basically voluntary system.

The research shows that of the fifty-one organisations declaring the highest lobby spending, only twelve are likely to, in fact, be among the biggest lobbyists. There is only one reliable-looking entry among the thirty declaring the highest lobbying expenditure. LobbyFacts produced this list by cross-referencing declared expenditure with the number of meetings held with senior staff at the Commission and the numbers of European Parliament passes held (plus some common sense!) as good indicators of an organisation’s actual lobby activity.

Erik Wesselius, a spokesperson for LobbyFacts said: “The pollution of the register by inaccurate entries, whether over-reporting or under-reporting lobby spend, is endemic. The only solution to this is to get tough: implement a legally-binding lobby register with the ability to apply sanctions so that there is a real disincentive to post inaccurate data. The Commission has tried the carrot approach since 2008; now it’s time for the stick!”

According to this analysis, in the LobbyFacts cleaned-up list, some of the world’s biggest corporate interests appear as top-spending EU lobbyists - Exxon, Shell, Microsoft - as well as trade associations representing the chemicals, finance, insurance and pharma industries. Three lobby firms also appear on the list: Fleishman-Hillard, Burson-Marsteller and Interel. Of the top twelve highest spending lobby organisations, eleven represent corporate interests and between them they spent at least €72,012,760in the most recently declared year.

Erik Wesselius concluded: “More lobby transparency is needed but the EU institutions also need to end the privileged access that corporations and corporate interests currently enjoy”.