A mandatory lobby register has been in place in Germany for a year now. LobbyControl has taken this as an opportunity to compile a top list of the lobbying companies of the past year. Google and SAP are the IT companies that spent the most money on political influence.
Millions spent to influence politics
Lobbying is part of everyday life and is increasingly seen as a problem. In the context of both social and ecological problems, it is apparent that the influence of large companies on politics can significantly impair the effective handling of problems affecting society as a whole in favor of satisfying the interests of large corporations. The German government has therefore decided to at least ensure transparency in the lobbying sector. As a result, a lobby register was created in which all lobbying companies must register. This should make it possible to see who has spent how much money on influencing politics in which year.
LobbyControl has compiled a top list for the past year from this register. This is led by companies in the automotive industry. Volkswagen tops the list with spending of 6.5 million euros (excluding Audi), followed by Mercedes-Benz with spending of around four million euros. In addition to the companies mentioned above, the top ten also include BASF, Deutsche Bank, Axel Springer, E.ON, Siemens Energy and Uniper. SAP is the first IT company in fifth place on the list, with spending of around 3.5 million euros. Google is in eighth place with spending of around three million euros. Across the EU, IT companies spend around 97 million euros annually on lobbying.
Criticism of lobby register
Such a list, which shows which companies have spent how much money on political influence, is available in Germany for the first time. Nevertheless, there is criticism. For example, LobbyControl points to the exceptions that apply to trade unions, employers’ associations and religious organizations: they do not have to disclose their lobby expenditures. LobbyControl also criticizes the fact that the German government has not yet achieved its further transparency goal of making it clear which legislative clauses were added by whom and under what influence. The disclosure of these direct influences on laws was already planned for the beginning of 2022. Law firms that carry out lobbying work on behalf of companies are also hardly to be found in the lobby register.
All this ultimately means that transparency is still only available to a very limited extent. Under the current regulations, numerous influence activities remain invisible to the general public. Another criticism is that only lobbying activities targeting the Bundestag and the federal government are recorded, but not those targeting individual federal ministries.