WASHINGTON — General Motors and 3M, two major corporations that have feuded publicly with President Trump in recent weeks, are adding additional lobbying firepower.
Their new spending in Washington, along with similar increases from other companies on the frontlines of the U.S. response, comes as lawmakers and the Trump administration increasingly lean on companies to develop drugs, manufacture masks, and assemble ventilators.
GM hired a new lobbying firm on April 13, and 3M has hired three new firms since March 24, and drug makers like Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Arcturus Therapeutics each signed new lobbying contracts in the past month, according to STAT’s review of disclosure forms.
The swelling lobbying spending illustrates the uncharted territory that many major American manufacturers now face: Amid major economic upheaval, some companies have been asked to produce products like masks and ventilators at unprecedented scale and speed. Other companies with little expertise in health care, like General Motors, have been tasked with manufacturing ventilators to treat Covid-19 patients in respiratory distress. And pharmaceutical companies, which normally develop drugs on timelines that can span decades, are facing pressure to product vaccines and therapeutics almost immediately.
Many of the lobbying firms that disclosed coronavirus-related work cited a series of bills Congress has passed in recent months to fund additional testing and economic relief for business and individuals. The disclosures for GM and 3M also come in light of President Trump’s dramatic decision to invoke the Defense Production Act, forcing 3M to produce millions of masks and forcing General Motors to manufacture thousands of ventilators to treat Covid-19 in respiratory distress.
Corporations that hire lobbyists are legally required to disclose how much they spend quarterly. Many, but not all, also include information about the kinds of issues on which they lobby representatives and policymakers at federal agencies.
This spring, 3M ended its contract with one D.C. lobbying firm but signed three new ones to represent its interests before Congress and the Trump administration, according to STAT’s review. One is Marshall & Popp LLC, a firm founded by former aides to top Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other members of GOP Senate leadership.
President Trump and 3M have feuded publicly this month. Trump, at one point, attempted to stop 3M from exporting masks from the United States, which 3M argued would lead to “humanitarian implications” and cause other countries to issue similar trade restrictions for masks. Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, a wartime law that allows the president to force companies to produce certain goods at times of critical need, to compel 3M to manufacture masks on April 3.
3M typically spends roughly $2 million on lobbying each quarter.
General Motors enlisted Navigators Global LLC to navigate “issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding federal response efforts,” according to disclosures. GM has similarly battled Trump regarding ventilator manufacturing, and eventually struck a roughly $500 million deal to produce 30,000 ventilators by August.
General Motors has spent between $1.38 million and $3.84 million per quarter in the past year. Neither 3M or GM immediately responded to a STAT request for comment.
Vyaire Medical, a ventilator manufacturer set to produce thousands of the devices for the federal government, also hired a lobbying firm for the first time.
And LabCorp, the clinical laboratory company that has contracted with the federal government and private health providers to conduct coronavirus testing, more than doubled its lobbying spending from $280,000 in the last quarter of 2019 to $590,000 in the first quarter of 2020.
Two drug manufacturers have also ramped up their lobbying presence: Acturus Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals, both of which are in the preclinical stages of developing a coronavirus vaccine.
Inovio had terminated its lobbying agreement with the consulting firm McGuireWoods in December, but quickly re-hired the company in light of the emerging pandemic. Arcturus had never had a contracted lobbying firm in Washington, but paid Avenue Strategies $30,000 for the period between April 1 and 17, according to disclosures.
Nicholas Florko contributed reporting.