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2009 was a mixed year for lobbying firms, early reports indicate

By Dan Eggen
Lobbying reports filed this week suggest mixed results for K Street in 2009, as record expenditures by health-care and oil firms were offset by lower spending in other sectors hit hard by the economic recession.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, for example, spent a record $26 million on lobbying last year, up from $20 million in 2008, the new disclosure records show. Other groups connected to health care also spent more on lobbying, including drugmaker Novartis ($6.1 million, up from $5.1 million in 2008) and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association ($2.1 million, compared to $1.9 million the year before).

There were also notable increases by firms seeking to influence energy and financial legislation under consideration in Congress. The Chevron oil company increased its lobbying expenditures by $8 million last year, to nearly $21 million, while Wells Fargo spent $2.9 million, compared to $2.3 million in 2008.

But other major players either held steady or reduced their spending in 2009, particularly in hard-hit sectors such as aerospace and defense. Northrop Grumman scaled back its lobbying by 27 percent, to $15 million, and Lockheed Martin spent $13 million, a drop of 17 percent, records show. Spending by Boeing was flat at about $17 million.

AARP, the influential seniors group, spent $8 million less on lobbying last year than it had in 2008, despite playing a central role in attempting to shepherd health-care reform legislation through Congress. The American Medical Association spent about the same in 2009 as it did the year before, reporting just more than $20 million in expenditures on its lobbying reports.

Patton Boggs, Washington's top lobbying firm, reported a surge in spending in the fourth quarter after a slow start earlier in the year, ending with record expenditures of $40.7 million in for 2009. Partner James Christian said, "2009 was clearly a very active year on the Hill. Our clients faced many challenges and opportunities and these figures reflect that activity."

It's too early to tell how the final numbers for 2009 will shake out; firms have until midnight Wednesday to file disclosure reports with Congress, and research organizations then have to sift through the data to arrive at a total. The amount of money spent on Washington lobbying reached $3.3 billion in 2008, more than double the amount that was spent 10 years before, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Many analysts predict modest growth at best for 2009, however, citing both the economy and the possible impact of anti-lobbying provisions implemented by the Obama administration. The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has also dropped by more than 10 percent over the last two years, to about 13,000 currently, data show.

Official lobbying disclosures capture only a small fraction of the money spent by corporations and interest groups to influence policy in Washington. For example, advocacy groups have spent more than $200 million on television ads in the health-care debate, none of which is counted in lobbying disclosure forms.

By Dan Eggen  |  January 20, 2010; 5:12 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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