"Lobbyists didn’t suffer a slowdown in 2009: Health industry spent $544m"
By Jonathan D. Salant, Bloomberg News, February 13, 2010
WASHINGTON - The recession did little to slow lobbyists in the nation’s capital last year, the Center for Responsive Politics reported yesterday as it detailed a 5 percent growth in expenses to a record $3.47 billion.
The US Chamber of Commerce led the way, spending a record $144 million. No group had eclipsed the $100 million threshold. Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, was next with $27.4 million.
In 2008, the Chamber of Commerce spent $91.7 million.
“Lobbying appears recession-proof,’’ Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics research group, said in a statement. “Even when companies are scaling back other operations, many view lobbying as a critical tool in protecting their future interests.’’
General Electric, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, was the second biggest-spending corporation with $25.5 million, up from $19.4 million in 2008. GE’s NBC Universal subsidiary is seeking approval to merge with Philadelphia-based Comcast.
The health industry spent $544 million, up 12 percent over 2008, as Congress debated legislation to overhaul health care. The Senate and House have passed separate versions of a health care plan.
Final health care legislation has been held up as Democrats decide how to proceed following the Senate victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts. That cost the Democrats the 60th vote they needed to break Republican filibusters.
The drug industry’s trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, spent $26.2 million, 30 percent higher than 2008 and third-most among individual concerns hiring lobbyists in 2009.
Four other health care groups were among the top 10 spenders last year: New York-based Pfizer, which spent $24.6 million; Chicago-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its members, $22.7 million; Washington-based AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, $21 million; and the Chicago-based American Medical Association, $20.8 million.
The US Chamber of Commerce also spent heavily on the health care overhaul. Some of the chamber’s overall spending included “grass-roots’’ lobbying efforts, which most other organizations don’t disclose, the center noted.
A nonprofit, independent group, the Center for Responsive Politics tracks money in US politics and its effect on elections and public policy.
It reported that the finance, insurance, and real estate industry, facing congressional proposals for stronger regulation, spent $465 million, up 1 percent from 2008. Some large financial institutions, including Bank of America and New York-based Goldman Sachs, decreased their lobbying spending as they accepted federal bailout funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Other previous lobbying stalwarts had a more precipitous decline. American International Group, for instance, spent just $2.27 million on federal lobbying - a quarter of its 2008 spending - before shutting down lobbying operations in June. Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stopped lobbying after each spent tens of millions of dollars earlier in the decade.
The number of companies or entities that reported lobbying the federal government in 2009 increased to 15,712, from 15,049. But the number of registered federal lobbyists decreased, falling to 13,742 from 14,442 in 2008. That did not keep the overall expenditures from accelerating. Spending, fueled by intensifying efforts to overhaul health care and financial regulations in the fall, reached $955.1 million in the last quarter, the first quarter in history that expenditures cracked the $900 million mark.
“Despite the odds, last year was a record year for lobbying,’’ Krumholz said. “However, it’s entirely possible that even more lobbying dollars will be spent in 2010.’’
Top lobbying associations
Pharmaceutical and health products: $266.8 million
General business associations: $183 million
Oil and gas: $168.4 million
Insurance: $164.2 million
Electric utilities: $144.4 million
Computer/Internet companies: $118.9 million
General manufacturing and distributing: $113.4 million
Hospitals and nursing homes: $108.4 million
Television, movies, and music: $107.3 million
Education: $98.6 million
Source: Center for Responsive Politics
"Record $3.5 billion spent on lobbying in 2009"
By Annalyn Censky, CNNMoney.com staff reporter, February 12, 2010
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Lobbying appears to be recession-proof, according to a report out by the Center for Responsive Politics today.
Companies and interest groups spent a record $3.47 billion on federal lobbying in 2009, a 5% increase over the year before, according to the watchdog group, which tracks money in U.S. politics at its site OpenSecrets.org.
That's surprising, said spokesman Dave Levinthal, since those results come during a year when the recession persisted, the dollar declined and unemployment soared.
"Most people would think that when the economy was as utterly rotten as it was in 2009 that companies might be scaling back their efforts in influencing the federal government," he said. "That the opposite proved true is really a testament to many companies' desire to press forward special interests at the federal level."
Issues like health care, financial reform, climate-change legislation and jobs drove lobbying activity in a year when Congress was notably busy, Levinthal said.
The pharmaceutical and health industry dominated lobbyist spending in D.C. at an estimated $266.8 million -- the greatest amount ever spent by a single industry in one year, according to OpenSecrets. Other big spenders included business associations ($183 million), oil and gas ($168.4 million) and insurance ($164.2 million).
Each of those sectors spent more in 2009 than in 2008.
The biggest lobbying powerhouse was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The association, which represents more than 3 million businesses in various industries, has held the top-spender spot for nine consecutive years. In 2009, the Chamber shelled out about $145 million -- the largest sum spent by a single interest group in one year. That figure marks a 6% increase from last year's lobbying expenses.
"The legislative calendar was very full, and this is a natural response to that," said Eric Wohlschlegel, a Chamber spokesperson.
The deadline to disclose lobbying activity was Jan. 20. A small number of companies and organizations may submit their disclosure reports late or file minor amendments, slightly changing the figures in OpenSecrets' report.
New campaign finance data show that although the Democratic and Republican party committees raised about the same amount of money last year, Democrats received more than twice as much money from large donors.
SOURCE: Federal Election Commission; Washington Post analysis | The Washington Post - March 18, 2010
"Democrats retain advantage among big donors even as total fundraising edge slips"
By DAN EGGEN, Washington Post Staff Writer, A17; March 18, 2010
Democrats are having a number of serious problems on the fundraising front, from unhappiness among Wall Street financiers to a narrowing gap with Republicans since the 2008 elections.
But Democrats can still cling to one thing: They remain the kings of collecting money from big donors.
A little-noticed Federal Election Commission report released this month -- and spotted by Washington Post congressional guru Paul Kane -- shows that the three main Democratic committees raised more than twice as much from large donors as their Republican counterparts last year.
The numbers add context to a debate in fundraising circles over whether wealthy donors might be giving less to the Democratic Party because of disputes over White House policies. A number of organizations, including The Post, have chronicled how Wall Street financiers and other patrons who backed Barack Obama in 2008 are either abandoning Democrats or, at the very least, giving less money than in the past.
But the FEC data suggest plenty of wealthy donors continued to support Democrats with their checkbooks, at least through December.
The Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee together took in more than $37.3 million from donors who gave $10,000 or more during the year, the FEC data show. On the GOP side, donors at the same level gave less than $15.6 million to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee combined, the data show.
The overall money race is much closer, with Democratic committees raising $141 million and the GOP close behind at $137.6 million. The Democratic committees, in other words, got more than twice as much of their individual contributions from big donors as Republicans did.
The contrast was particularly sharp between the DNC, which received 60 percent of its money from donations of less than $200, and the RNC, which took in nearly 80 percent of its receipts from the smallest donors. The RNC still edged out the DNC by $4 million in total money raised from individuals.
Overall, the data illustrate how Democrats are in a state of flux on fundraising. Gridlock in Congress and softening public support for Obama have clearly hurt the party's bank accounts, yet the Democrats still benefit mightily from holding the levers of power in Washington.
Consider a comparison with 2005, another post-presidential off-election year, but with Republicans controlling the White House and Congress. The DNC raised just $4.4 million from $10,000-and-over donors that year, an amount the committee quadrupled last year. The pattern is reversed at the RNC, which brought in $20.5 million in large donations in 2005 but less than $3 million in the same category last year.
The Democratic power advantage also shows up in "excess cash" that lawmakers can transfer from their campaign accounts to the party committees. House Democrats, for example, donated nearly $16 million to the DCCC, compared with less than $5 million from House Republicans to the NRCC, the FEC data show.
But the data also reveal Democratic weak points. The DSCC, which took in $15 million from big donors when Democrats were out of power in 2005, raised less than $10 million from the same group last year.
The DNC did not respond to a request for comment on the data. But RNC spokesman Doug Heye said Republicans have made remarkable progress in closing the fundraising gap with Democrats despite being out of power. He noted Obama's ability to hold million-dollar fundraisers with congressional leaders.
"They'll be continuing to get as much water from that stone as they can, but that water is drying up as Obama's poll numbers have fallen," Heye said. "When we had the White House and both chambers, we had a distinct advantage. Now they have that advantage, yet we're still basically at parity with them."
To campaign finance reformers, the lesson to be drawn from the data is simple: There's too much big money in politics.
"Both big donors and ordinary voters are tired of the constant money chase," said David Donnelly, national campaigns director for the Public Campaign Action Fund, which favors public financing for election campaigns.
"Voters see the fundraising as an impediment to good policy," Donnelly added, and "many of the big donors would prefer members of Congress work on the issues confronting the country."
"Lobbyists focus on senators examining derivatives"
By Edward Wyatt and Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, April 20, 2010
WASHINGTON — Assessing the battle to overhaul the nation’s financial regulations recently, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, left no doubt about the consequences if Congress cracks down on his bank’s immense business in derivatives.
“It will be negative,’’ he said. “Depending on the real detail, it could be $700 million to a couple billion dollars.’’
With so much money at stake, it is not surprising that more than 1,500 lobbyists, executives, and bankers have made their way to the Senate committee that tomorrow will take up legislation to rein in derivatives, the complex securities at the heart of the financial crisis, the billion-dollar bank bailouts, and the fraud case filed against Goldman Sachs.
The forum for all this attention is not the usual banking and financial services committees, but rather the Senate Agriculture Committee, a group more accustomed to dealing with farm subsidies than with the more obscure corners of Wall Street.
A main weapon being wielded to fight the battle is money. Agriculture Committee members have received $22.8 million in this election cycle from people and organizations affiliated with financial, insurance, and real estate companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Much of that lobbying has centered on Senator Blanche Lincoln, the Arkansas Democrat who chairs the committee and who last week introduced the bill that would prevent banks from trading derivatives directly.
The daughter of a sixth-generation rice farmer, she has found herself navigating a dangerous channel between Wall Street firms that raised $60,000 at two fund-raisers for her reelection campaign this year and her constituents, many of whom want a crackdown on the speculation that led to the financial crisis.
The committee will be the main arena for the derivatives fight for reasons dating to an era when farming was more important to the nation’s economy than finance. By putting up a relatively small amount of money, a farmer could buy a simple derivative known as a forward or futures contract that would guarantee a set price for crops and thereby guard against ruinous price swings between planting and harvest.
A more complex type of derivative helped to inflate the housing bubble in recent years, as Wall Street repackaged high-risk mortgages into securities that speculators could use to bet on the direction of the housing market. Financial institutions earned millions of dollars in fees for creating the securities.
"Lobbying expenditures drop for many firms in first quarter"
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post Staff Writer; A17; April 22, 2010
Maybe everyone is just lobbied out.
Despite passage of sweeping health-care legislation and an epic fight over Wall Street regulation, lobbying expenditures dropped for many major firms and trade organizations during the first quarter of 2009, according to disclosure forms filed in Congress this week.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent a record $72 million on lobbying and advocacy efforts during the fourth quarter of 2009, spent less than half that in the first three months of this year, records show. The American Bankers Association spent less on lobbying during the first quarter -- $1.8 million -- than it did during any quarter last year. J.P. Morgan Chase spent 20 percent less so far this year than it did from October to December, when it racked up nearly $1.9 million in Capitol Hill lobbying costs.
Lobbying also dropped precipitously for many energy companies despite the continued debate over climate legislation, including Chevron (down 55 percent) and Exxon Mobil (down 64 percent).
It's important not to go too far, of course. Many major firms racked up impressive billings as they attempted to head off Wall Street regulations, health-care reform and other Obama administration proposals. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents drugmakers, spent more than ever, $7 million. The Financial Services Roundtable, the New York Stock Exchange and Credit Suisse Securities all ratcheted up their spending dramatically during the first quarter; Goldman Sachs, which now finds itself at the center of a major fraud scandal, nearly doubled its lobbying, to $1.15 million, in the first three months of the year.
Even so, the top 25 firms and groups in the financial, insurance and real estate sector posted an overall drop of 8 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2009, to $41.3 million; that number is also down slightly from the same period a year earlier. There are many possible explanations, from a shift in focus to the midterm elections to the fact that Washington was shut down for days after February's historic snowstorm.
But don't worry: There's plenty of time in the year to catch up.
Speaking of Goldman Sachs: The fraud charges leveled against the firm last week present a clear political problem for Democrats, who have collected millions in contributions from Goldman employees and others connected to the case.
The problem is particularly acute for President Obama, who took in nearly $1 million from Goldman Sachs employees during his run for the White House in 2008, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. GOP candidate John McCain, by contrast, collected about $230,000 from Goldman employees, who nonetheless were still among his top givers.
Overall, Goldman's employees and its political action committee gave 3-to-1 to Democrats over Republicans during the 2008 cycle. Former House majority leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) is a registered lobbyist for Goldman, while former Obama counsel Gregory Craig recently signed on to represent the firm. (White House officials say ethics rules prohibit Craig from contacting any administration officials on the subject for two years.)
But the firm's Democratic preference has waned in recent months as the White House has singled out Goldman and other highly profitable Wall Street firms for criticism. The company's PAC gave $167,000 to Republicans and $123,000 to Democrats in March, Federal Election Commission records show.
An RNC spokesman declined to comment. Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said the contributions by Goldman employees "would be a lot more telling if Wall Street banks weren't fighting tooth and nail against the sweeping reforms the administration is advocating for."
The SEC accuses Goldman of a complex form of fraud by selling mortgage-backed securities to clients without disclosing that they were crafted to fail and that billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson -- who helped design them -- was also betting on a negative outcome. Goldman denies the charges.
Paulson poses another political problem for both parties. The Paulson & Co. CEO is a longtime fundraiser who leans Republican but also gives generously to Democrats, particularly those with influence on Wall Street.
Last week, for example, Paulson hosted a fundraiser at his Manhattan home for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Just a week earlier, Paulson hosted a fundraising reception for Sen. Charles E. Schumer at the Friars Club, calling the New York Democrat "one of the few members of Congress who has consistently supported the hedge fund industry."
"Lobbyists spent nearly $1 billion in Q1"
By Dan Eggen, The Washington Post, April 29, 2010
It's official: The first quarter of 2010 marked another frenzy for Washington lobbyists as corporations, unions and other interest groups spent nearly $1 billion in their attempts to sway Congress and the Obama administration.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group, calculates that the $903 million spent on lobbying from January through March puts the profession on pace to beat last year's record expenditures of $3.5 billion.To look at it another way: Interest groups spent $19 million for every day that the House or Senate was in session.
The onslaught was led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other general business interests, which together spent about $139 million in the first quarter, CRP said. The other big spenders were directly linked to the weighty legislative issues that have dominated Congress: the health sector spent $138 million in the battle over President Obama's health-care overhaul legislation; the energy sector spent $128 million in the debate over cap-and-trade; and the finance sector dropped $123 million in attempts to sway a proposed Wall Street overhaul.
That said, the overall numbers also mask notable drops in spending by many individual companies and sectors, some of which have been hit hard by the economic downturn. The agribusiness, construction and transportation sectors, for example, all scaled back their spending in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same period a year earlier, as did major corporations ranging from ExxonMobil to Lockheed Martin.
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