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Fewer Washington Lobbyists, but More Spending

Thursday, July 30, 2009 - 00:00
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Just how busy are Washington lobbyists these days? Consider this: There are nearly 1,000 fewer of them than there were at this time last year—but their clients are spending just as feverishly as they did a year ago, shelling out $1.6 billion through June 30 alone. 

Some 12,467 lobbyists registered with the federal government in the first half of this year, down 7% from 2008—putting their numbers at roughly 2006 levels, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. (Then again, federal lobbying figures may leave something to be desired.) 

Spending, however, actually rose $342,000, or less than a tenth of 1%. That's 27% more than lobbyists spent in 2006, but spending across sectors is far from uniform. Most sectors are down, including defense, agribusiness, and transportation. Even the finance-and-real estate sector is spending less—down about 5%, or $12.3 million, in large part because of the demise of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and government takeovers of onetime lobbying heavyweights such as AIG (AIG), Fannie Mae (FNM), and Freddie Mac (FRE). 

Cap-and-Trade Brings Out Oil Interests Not surprisingly, health care and energy are making up for the broader declines. Lobbying in the energy sector overall has jumped 16%, to top $201 million, and the prospect of an energy bill with a carbon cap-and-trade feature brought oil interests scurrying, led by Chevron (CVX) at $12.8 million and ConocoPhillips (COP) at $9.2 million, each more than double their first-half 2008 spending, and the American Petroleum Institute ($3.7 million, up 60%). 

The fastest-rising spender in the energy sector? The American Wind Energy Assn. At $3.7 million, it's not the biggest of the big spenders, but it's now on par with the American Petroleum Institute and has quintupled its spending since early 2008, when it shelled out just $729,000. That's not to say wind can match the big petrochemical companies: Dow Chemical (DOW) alone spent $3.3 million in the first half of the year, double what it spent in the first half of 2008. And ExxonMobil (XOM), though it increased spending by only 16%, shelled out $13.6 million on lobbying. 

With reform in the air—if not yet on the House or Senate floor—the health-care sector's overall spending on lobbying rose 9.6%, to $261 million. In the front ranks: the drug industry's trade group, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, plunking down $13.1 million, half again what it laid out a year ago. Pfizer (PFE) spent $11.7 million, double 2008's figure, and CVS/Caremark (CVS) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) each also doubled their spending, to $4 million and $3.5 million, respectively.


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