July 16, 2020 – The $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package is one of the most heavily lobbied bills of all time – and a ripe target for reporters exploring who got the money and why.

“As COVID tightened its grip on the U.S., Washington lobbying firms put teams of lobbyists on the clock to make sure they were at the table when the inevitable massive government spending decisions were made,” said Dan Auble, a senior researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics. He was joined by Sheila Krumholz, the center's executive director.

Nearly 1,600 entities reported lobbying Congress on the CARES Act in the first quarter of 2020. Only the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the 2009 stimulus package designed to help pull the nation out of the Great Recession – had more.

Auble and James Grimaldi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter, briefed National Press Foundation fellows on how to follow the lobbyists’ money to lawmakers’ campaign war chests, their staffs, their businesses, their favorite charities, or their spouses’ employers.

The first coronavirus stimulus programs were passed by Congress in late March just as businesses, schools and most aspects of public life were shutting down. The biggest legislative package – the CARES Act – included very visible programs such as the $1,200 checks most U.S. adults received and the Paycheck Protection Program intended to help small businesses. It had several other provisions, many targeted to specific industries.

Among the resources reporters can tap: