According to this article in Associations Now, a trade magazine for those of us in the association management business, trade associations are moving dollars away from lobbying and into public relations:
Overall, the trade groups spent $1.26 billion on advertising, far more than any other service, and nearly twice the $682 million that was spent on lobbying, legal services, and government affairs. A huge portion of the $1.2 billion total came from just one relationship: The $327.4 million the American Petroleum Institute paid public relations firm Edelman over the four-year period. The amount was most of the $372 million the association spent over the period.
In its report, CPI portrayed advertising as an area where trade groups had more freedom to push their message, compared with more traditional means.
“The public relations industry is on a growth tear while the number of federally registered lobbyists is actually shrinking,” CPI reporters Erin Quinn and Chris Young wrote in their story. “Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people.”
I’d imagine that another factor is that with the Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court, many companies that would have funneled “political” dollars through trade associations are now taking the DIY route.