The National Football League and its players union increased spending on congressional lobbying to more than $1 million in the past decade because of higher interest in player safety, drug testing and labor issues, according to a study released today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“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,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a release.
In 2012, the NFL spent $1.14 million on federal lobbying, a more than five-fold increase from what it spent a decade ago, according to the organization, which says it is focused on accountability by public officials. The union tripled spending to $120,000 in 2012, from $40,000 in 2002.
Messages left with the NFL and union seeking comment on the report weren’t immediately returned.
The NFL, with annual revenue of $9.3 billion, started a political action committee in 2008 called Gridiron-PAC. It didn’t start making donations until the 2010 election cycle, when the U.S. Congress began holding hearings on concussions and started taking an interest in discord between the league and its players’ union.
During the 2012 election cycle, the NFL contributed $838,000 to federal candidates, PACs and party committees, an increase of 26 percent from the 2010 cycle, the study showed.
Recipients of donations from the NFL’s PAC were congressional leaders and key members on committees with jurisdiction over NFL issues, the report said.
“Given the NFL’s estimated $9 billion in annual revenue, both sides can clearly afford to maintain their influence in Washington,” Sloan said. “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.”
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