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January 29, 2013

CREW Releases New Report on Increased NFL Lobbying Activity in Washington

Defensive GameWashington, D.C. — In anticipation of the Super Bowl, today Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its latest report, Defensive Game, which examines patterns in lobbying spending by both the National Football League (NFL) and the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA).  CREW’s research shows that over the past five years, the NFL has been on the defensive, beefing up its lobbying team and creating its first political action committee (PAC) in light of increased congressional interest in player safety, drug testing, and labor issues.

Read more about Defensive Game or download the full report

In 2012, the NFL spent $1.14 million on federal lobbying, a more than five-fold increase of what it spent a decade ago.  The NFLPA, which spends far less on lobbying, saw its spending triple from $40,000 in 2002 to $120,000 in 2012.

“With increasing scrutiny and coverage of the lasting, debilitating effects football careers can have on players’ health, the NFL has gone into damage control mode — pumping up its lobbying spending and donations to influential members of Congress,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.

Gridiron-PAC, formed by the NFL in 2008, did not start making donations until the 2010 election cycle, when labor negotiations with the NFLPA grew tense and Congress began to express interest in the NFL’s response to concussions and head trauma.  During the 2012 election cycle, the PAC contributed $838,000 to federal candidates, PACs, and party committees — an increase of 26 percent from the 2010 election cycle.

The top recipients of donations from the PAC have mostly been a bipartisan group of congressional leadership and key members on committees exercising jurisdiction over NFL issues.  For instance, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, received $30,000 over the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.  In July 2012, Rep. Upton and three other committee leaders wrote to the NFL and the NFLPA expressing concern about whether a comprehensive testing program for human growth hormone would be in place prior to the start of the 2012 season.  Three weeks before the letter was sent, Rep. Upton’s campaign committee accepted a $5,000 contribution from Gridiron-PAC.

“Given the NFL’s estimated $9 billion in annual revenue, both sides can clearly afford to maintain their influence in Washington,” continued Ms. Sloan.  “While the league is dealing with numerous challenges off the gridiron — including a renewed interest in drug testing — it is worth keeping an eye on how the billionaire owners and millionaire players use their deep pockets to influence Congress.”

NFL vs. NFLPA Lobbying Spending 1999-2012

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Stephen Santulli at 202.408.5565 or ssantulli@citizensforethics.org.

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