Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lobbyists rev up over U.S. agenda

WASHINGTON — Special interests spent $916 million to shape legislation and government policy during the first three months of the year, new lobbying reports show.

The spending comes as Congress and President Obama pursue a legislative agenda that touches virtually all parts of the U.S. economy — from bills on health care and energy to new regulations for banks and Wall Street firms.

The lobbying expenses exceed the $848.1 million spent during the same period in 2009, according to figures tallied by the non-partisan CQ MoneyLine. Lobbyists spent an average $305 million a month from January to March to influence policy this year — more than double the monthly rate of spending a decade ago.

Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official and expert on money in politics, said the increased spending ensures companies get heard on Capitol Hill. "As new regulation is being considered, they are willing to pay top dollar to get up close and personal with the legislators who can help or hurt their profit margins," he said.

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