Lobbyists reap huge financial rewards for top political access

By Ruth McKee

Direct access to influential Cabinet ministers could be of huge financial value to a lobbyist, with some 'connections' valued at £112,000, according to a report published today.

The Centre for Economic Policy (CEP) has researched the connections between lobbyists and politicians in the US and found that the most 'politically connected' lobbyists, those with the closest relationships to senators, suffered a 24% fall in revenues when 'their' senator left office.

"You can use this figure as a benchmark value for being connected to a serving UK Cabinet minister", said study co-author, Mirko Draca.

"Like senators, Cabinet ministers have a lot of strategic power in policy making and they seem to be the main target of lobbying activity in the UK political system."

The study comes just one week after Liam Fox left office amid controversy over the influence his close friend Adam Werritty was seen to be 'buying' with the former defence secretary.

Because UK lobbying has traditionally been more informal than the US system, where senators must publish all connections with lobbyists, the study could not compare 'like with like' between the two political systems.

"Our estimate is speculative. This is because there is no serious, publicly reported data on lobbying in the UK. We simply can't do the same type of research here because there is no UK equivalent of the US Lobbying Disclosure Act," Mr Draca added.

The US lobbying industry is worth $3 billion a year, more than the UK lobbying industry.

"This is partly because there is less voting along party lines in the US Congress and representatives are therefore more open to influence from lobbyists," Mr Draca explained.

"In the UK, Cabinet ministers are the focus of lobbying because of their direct decision-making power."

However, the report warns that due to the financial and political rewards reaped by lobbyists in the US, the UK lobbying industry will be an increasingly powerful force in the coming years.

It stressed the need for the UK to "implement a serious and detailed lobbying disclosure regime" which would make it clear to voters exactly who has access to their elected representatives in parliament.