How Wealthy Individuals and Corporations Protect their Interests

Two new reports shed light on how big corporations and the wealthy elites who control them use their riches to advance their policy agenda. A new report by Oxfam, Wealth: Having it All and Wanting More describes the increasing concentration of global wealth.


credit: Oxfam
credit: Oxfam

Richest 10 billionaires (ranked in 2013) who have made (at least part of) their fortunes from activities related to the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, and their increase in wealth between March 2013 and March 2014.


A few highlights from this report:


  • In 2014, the richest 1% of the people in the world owned 48% of the global wealth., leaving just 52% to be shared among the others 99% of the adults on the planet.
  • Wealth of the 80 richest people in the world has doubled in nominal terms between 2009 and 2014, while the wealth of the bottom 50% is lower in 2014 than it was in 2009
  • In the last two years, billionaires listed as having interests and activities in the pharmaceutical and health care sectors saw the biggest increase in their collective wealth. Their collective wealth increased from $170 billion to $250 billion, a 47% increase and the largest increase in wealth of the different sectors on the Forbes list.
  • In 2013, the pharmaceutical and health care sectors spent more than $487 million on lobbying in the United States alone, more than any other US sectors and representing 15% of total lobbying in 2013. In 2012, this sector spent $260 million on campaign contributions. The pharmaceutical and health care industry spent another $50 million on lobbying in the European Union.



Who Needs Lobbyists?

A second report Who needs lobbyists? See what big business spends to win American minds by the Center on Public Integrity analyzed how much US trade associations spent on advertising and public relations, a much higher expenditure than lobbing. Some highlights:


  • Spending on public relations faces far less disclosure requirements, making transparency more difficult than for lobbying.
  • By industry sector, the biggest clients of PR services are energy and natural resources associations.
  • All five of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s top contractors in 2010 and 2012 were advertising agencies.
  • PR giant Edelman collected $346.8 million from trade groups from 2008-2012, way more than any other communications firm.
  • Industries relying most on PR campaigns are usually those facing the heaviest regulation


credit: Center for Public Integrity


From 2008 through 2012, the most politically active trade groups spent a total of $3.4 billion on their top contractors, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of annual tax filings. This graph shows where their money went.