Philip Morris tops NGOs’ lobbying spending table

Tobacco company Phillip Morris ramped up its spending on lobbyists as EU lawmakers revised the Tobacco Products Directive, make it mandatory for all cigarette packs to carry picture warnings covering 65% of their surface. [LeRamz/Flickr]

Tobacco giant Philip Morris was the company that spent the most money on lobbying the EU last year, according to data compiled by civil society organisations.

Philip Morris spent about €5.25 million and petrol firm ExxonMobil up to €5 million, according to LobbyFacts, a joint project by Friends of the Earth Europe, the Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl.

A third US multinational, Microsoft, spent €4.75 million on lobbying. European energy companies Shell and GDF Suez paid out up to €4.5 million and €4 million respectively, according to the data, which is subject to change.

America’s General Electric (€3.5 million), China’s Huawei Technologies (€3 million), Germany’s pharma firm Bayer (€2.76 million) and Telekom Austria Group (€2.75 million) finish up the top ten, which shelled out a total of more than €39 million to influence EU lawmakers in 2013.

Philip Morris’ media relations manager Iro Antoniadou told EURACTIV, “It is hardly surprising that an organisation actively advocated for its views when relevant policy issues were being debated, and then reported this activity accordingly in the Transparency Register. We would expect this to be common practice for the multiple other organisations that contributed with their views in this EU decision-making process.”

The cigarette company, which makes Marlboro, increased its spending from €1.25 million in 2012 because 2013 was a crucial year for decision-making on the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive. The legislation will make it mandatory for all cigarette packs to carry picture warnings covering 65% of their surface. 

MEPs and transparency campaigners have criticised the European Commission for dragging its feet in implementing WHO transparency rules regulating contacts between policymakers and the tobacco industry. The European Ombudsman launched an investigation into allegedly “undisclosed” meetings between top EU officials and the tobacco industry.

In October 2012, Health Commissioner John Dalli was forced to resign over allegations a Maltese businessman acting on his behalf asked tobacco producer Swedish Match for case to influence the revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive. 

Top ten companies for spending on lobbying [LobbyFacts]Top ten companies for spending on lobbying [LobbyFacts]

Figures taken from Transparency Register

The figures were calculated using data available on the EU’s Transparency Register. LobbyFacts said the data was a “cleaned-up version” of the data, which it described as unreliable.

The website carries a disclaimer saying LobbyFacts is not responsible for the accuracy of the data on the site. The data is provided voluntarily by members of the transparency register, it said.

A number of large corporations such as Goldman Sachs and Time Warner had not signed up for the voluntary register, it said, and could be among the big spenders.

Natacha Cingotti, of Friends of the Earth Europe, said, “What we see is just the tip of the iceberg. Given the lack of a mandatory register, too much of the lobbying directed at EU institutions is shrouded in secrecy, with numerous lobby groups and law firms shunning disclosure or under-reporting their lobby budgets.”

The current register covers the European Commission and Parliament but not the European Council, which represents EU member states.

Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker has made a mandatory register covering all three of the main EU institutions a priority for his new executive.

It will fall under the remit of Frans Timmermans, if he is backed by MEPs to become Vice-President for Better Regulation at his commissioner hearing on 7 October.

Transparency was a dominant theme during MEPs’ examination of incoming Trade Commissioner Celia Malmström yesterday (29 September).  

Max Bank, of LobbyControl, said, “We look forward to seeing the proposal for a new mandatory EU lobby register promptly after Juncker takes office.”

Lawyers, lobbyists and trade associations

LobbyFacts has launched an online database to draw attention to how much is being spent and by whom in Brussels.

It shows that the biggest consultancies by turnover are Fleishman-Hillard, Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton International Belgium, APCO Worldwide, FTI Consulting Belgium, G Plus Ltd, Kreab Gavin Anderson, FIPRA International Limited, Afore Consulting, and Cabinet DN.

Consultancies by turnover [LobbyFacts]Consultancies by turnover [LobbyFacts]

They have a combined lobby turnover of more than €60 million per year. There are more US-based lobby organisations in the EU register than organisations from Poland, Austria, Sweden or Denmark, according to the website.

The data also shows that consultancies hold more than 670 access passes to the Parliament and that five lobby firms have 130 Parliament-accredited lobbyists between them.

LobbyFacts also lists trade associations’ spending on lobbying, using the most recent year for which they provided figures. It details how many lobbyists each association has.

The Association for Financial Markets in Europe spent €10 million, with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation paying out €7.75 million.

The European Chemical Industry Council, the Association Nationale des Industries Alimentaires and European Banking Federation, which spent between €4.25million and €5.9million, fill out the top five of the list.

Trade associations by 2013 lobby spending [LobbyFacts]Trade associations by 2013 lobby spending [LobbyFacts]

Belgium is the registered country of origin for 1,659 lobby organisations active in Brussels.  While they are based in Belgium, they are often working for industry concerns based outside it.

Germany (848), France (703), the UK (658) and Italy (616) are the next popular headquarter countries.

There is also a list of law firms on the website which ranks them according to their declared lobbying turnover. Belgium’s Beiten Burkhardt and the UK’s Bird & Bird top the list, earning €10 million a year.

EURACTIV also contacted ExxonMobil for comment about this story. “The amount we spend is to be found in the EU Transparency Register and that is calculated strictly in line with the EU Commission Guidelines,” a spokesman said.

Any other company or association mentioned in this article is invited to respond to

Law firms by turnover. [LobbyFacts]Law firms by turnover. [LobbyFacts]

The European transparency register came into effect in June 2011, as part of a series of efforts to boost integrity of the institutions under the European Transparency Initiative.

The register is a database of lobby firms, individuals, NGOs and other organisations working to influence EU legislation in Brussels. It currently has around 6,000 registered organisations.

In June 2013, the European Commission and Parliament appointed a joint working group to review the transparency register.

  • 7 October: Frans Timmermans' hearing at European Parliament

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