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Meet the Thanksgiving Lobby — the special interests with Turkey Day money on their minds

Meet the Thanksgiving Lobby — the special interests with Turkey Day money on their minds

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Every interest in the country seems to have a lobbyist working for it in Washington.

So why not the most American of holidays — Thanksgiving? If it’s on your Turkey Day plate, someone in Washington lobbied to make sure it somehow got there at a favorable price point and maybe even under friendlier regulations.

Each year, a wide range of groups including turkey producers, cranberry growers, and even the National Football League spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence politicians and policy in their favor.

From stout lobbying budgets to political action committees flush with cash, here are some of the biggest players whose products are stars on and around the holiday table.

National Turkey Federation

For the past decade, the National Turkey Federation has consistently spent $140,000 each year on federal-level lobbying efforts, according to lobbying disclosures filed with Congress.

Of late, the National Turkey Federation has lobbied Congress and the Department of Agriculture on a variety of issues, from animal drug regulations to coronavirus pandemic-related funding.

The federation also operates a political action committee, which has steadily increased its contributions to politicians over the years. The PAC gives money to both Republicans and Democrats but tends to favor GOP candidates.

During the 2020 election, the federation contributed money to the campaigns of several-dozen political candidates, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Rep. Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The federation represents the interests of numerous turkey producers, including Butterball, Jennie-O, Perdue, Tyson, and Norbest.

National Wild Turkey Federation

The sportsman-focused National Wild Turkey Federation typically spends about $150,000 annually lobbying the federal government, according to lobbying disclosures filed with the US Senate.

Among its recent lobbying priorities: preserving wild turkey habitats and supporting hunters.

Ocean Spray

Whether you like them from a can or in a marginally fresher clump, Ocean Spray cranberries are a Thanksgiving staple.

So are Ocean Spray’s lobbying efforts, which generally cost the company about $400,000 annually, according to federal records compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Its interests are wide-ranging, and include “matters concerning federal nutrition policy, conservation, trade and agricultural cooperatives; cooperative tax issues; matters concerning COVID-19,” according to recent disclosures the company filed with Congress.

Ocean Spray also sponsors a PAC, which during the 2020 election cycle contributed to 16 federal political candidates, including Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Republican Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas.

National Potato Council

Whether mashed or sweet, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without spuds.

The National Potato Council also brings plenty of starch to Washington, routinely spending six-figure amounts annually on lobbying efforts.

Its recent lobbying targets include farm bill funding and favorable appropriations, tax reform, and immigration reform. Market access in Mexico, China, and Japan is also a priority, according to lobbying disclosures filed with Congress.

The National Potato Council’s PAC contributed to 18 federal-level candidates during the 2020 election cycle, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Rep. Jim Costa in California.

National Football League

From noon straight through into Thanksgiving night, professional football will flicker across the television screens of millions of Americans.

In the nation’s capital, the National Football League has established itself as a formidable lobbying force, regularly spending between $1 million and $2 million to press lawmakers and regulators on a range of issues.

Among the NFL’s wide-ranging lobbying priorities in 2020: favorable broadcasting regulations, gambling regulation, and criminal justice reform.

The NFL’s PAC contributed money to dozens of political campaigns during the 2020 election cycle, including those of Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. The NFL’s PAC generally divides its contributions close to evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

Separately, several NFL owners also contributed millions of dollars to President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration festivities.

Trump himself almost become an NFL owner. But his bid to buy the Buffalo Bills in late 2014 fell short.

Nine months later, without a football team to run, Trump did the next best thing: he announced he’d be running for president of the United States.