Congress is at odds over rebuilding infrastructure and investing in family care, but a big spending bill recently sailed through the Senate by a vote of 68-32. The bill pushes $250 billion into technology research and subsidies for industries like semiconductors to compete with China—proving once again there can still be bipartisan consensus on national priorities, as long as armies of corporate lobbyists are behind it.

  Despite the new White House and Congress this year, much remains the same in the influence industry on Capitol Hill. The pharmaceutical industry, by far the top spender on lobbying, set new records last year and then smashed those in the first quarter of this year. President Biden’s proposal for military spending was a $12 billion increase over the final year of the Trump administration. The innovation bill meant to match China doubles funding for the Pentagon’s R&D arm, which is likely to lead to even more bloated budgets for weapons programs.

  With so much public money at stake, now is an important window of time to track who is influencing the people who make government decisions. Committee chairs and caucus leaders in Congress can block legislation—for example, on climate policy—or roll bills they’ve sponsored with lobbyist-favored provisions into must-pass omnibus bills. Lobbyists are having their way in the Democratic Congress, and government contractors have business ties to administration officials.

  Sludge has built a track record of independence in uncovering hidden influence over Congress and top political players. We’re in position to name the big donors to congressional leaders when their?industry lobbyists come calling. Conservative Democrats like those in the Problem Solvers Caucus portray their efforts as staunchly middle-class, when in fact they seek to tilt tax policy in favor of wealthy finance executive donors who make their campaigns easier.

  Sludge has stayed paywall-free, relying on readers who contribute $5 a month to make our investigative reporting happen.?We’re able to keep digging into the disclosure reports, making spreadsheets, and asking tough questions?because a tiny percentage of our readers say it’s important that we’re doing this work and reporting what we find. The?stories we send?out?are shared widely and found by people searching for trustworthy information about?money in politics.

  This week, Sludge celebrates our three-year anniversary. Our launch day?stories?gave a sense of where we were headed: exposing a defense think tank funded by Pentagon contractors, telcos spending $190 million on lobbying to kill net neutrality, and a last-minute ad blitz for a Trump-backed House candidate in Virginia.

  Since then, our nonprofit?newsroom has published hundreds of stories every year that have made the shadowy world of lobbying and government favors more brightly-lit, all free for anyone to read. But we haven’t had many new donors sign up in the past few months, and we need more new sign ups to keep operating.

  Thank you for reading, thank you to our colleagues who helped us launch our independent newsroom, and especially to the Sludge members who keep us going with their gifts. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, and our free daily email of links to our latest stories.