Nestling Nestlé

In 2017, Nestlé moved its headquarters from Glendale, CA to Arlington, VA. Cynics claim that it was mostly due to local subsidies and access to the Federal Capitol that prompted the move. The announcement from the company itself seems to agree at least with the latter assertion:

With a majority of key regulatory groups and non-government organizations pertinent to the business located in or near the Washington, D.C. area, the move will further facilitate important conversations about bringing the best foods and beverages to U.S. consumers

If we expect Nestle to use its new location to increase its influence with the Federal regulators, we would expect that to show up in the lobbying activities. I checked on opensecrets.org. What I found was that total spending went down quite a bit after the move, but overall lobbying activity did go up. Below is a small chart showing the changes.

Nestlé lobbying, 2014-2019

Total spending on lobbying groups went down from over $3 million to $1.5 million, a drop of 50%, after the move in 2018. However, full-time Nestlé lobbyists went from 3 to 5, and the company was able to increase the number of issues it lobbied.

It is hard to draw any firm conclusions from this, but it remains at least plausible that proximity to Capitol Hill increases the opportunities for rent-seeking.

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