Feb. 6, 2016

Chamber Lobbying Dips in First Quarter

Even as it waged major battles on health care and financial reform, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday reported a dramatic drop in lobbying expenditures for the first three months of this year compared with the last two quarters of 2009.

The chamber disclosed that it shelled out $25.1 million on federal lobbying for the first three months of 2010, compared with $71.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 and $34.7 million for the third quarter of last year.

With a Tuesday deadline for filing lobbying reports to Congress, companies and associations with a stake in health care and other pressing legislative issues, such as banking, broadband and defense, reported spending tens of millions of dollars to influence lawmakers so far this year. Some industries, such as pharmaceutical, telecommunications and high-tech giants spent more this quarter than the final quarter of last year, while associations representing both large and small businesses scaled back their activities.

Health care has clearly been a major focus in the past year for groups such as the chamber, whose lobbying tab substantially jumped in the second part of 2009 as it pumped millions of dollars into advocacy advertising aimed at defeating the Democrats’ plan.

In March, just before Congress approved the health care legislation, chamber officials announced they were underwriting another multimillion-dollar campaign. But apparently the group decided not to open its wallet as much as it previously had, as evidenced by the 65 percent decline in lobbying spending.

The chamber also has launched an effort to defeat the Democratic version of the financial reform bill now being considered by Congress. But much of that effort may not show up until the second-quarter filings.

Despite its reduced spending, the chamber still far outpaced other groups in lobbying expenditures both on health care and other issues for the quarter. And its lobbying expenditures are still far greater than it spent in the first and second quarters of 2009, when it reported $10 million and $7.4 million, respectively.

“During the third and fourth quarters of 2009, we were at the height of the health care reform debate,” chamber spokeswoman Tita Freeman said. “While we remained active on health care during the first quarter of 2010, the debate was winding down.”

Another big player, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents major drug companies, spent $7 million on lobbying for the quarter, up from $6.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. The association’s higher lobbying tab was attributable to its final push to get health care passed, an industry official said.

The brand-name drug industry won a number of major concessions in the bill, including a provision that gives its companies a minimum of 12 years to develop ground-breaking biologic drugs before generics can enter the market. Genentech, the California biotechnology firm that stands to benefit from such drugs, increased its lobbying spending to $1.1 million in the first three months of this year from $610,000 in the fourth quarter of last year.

The pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. also substantially upped its lobbying tab to $3.2 million at the beginning of this year from $1.8 million at the end of 2009.

Fattening lobbying budgets, however, did not always ensure success, as the Generic Pharmaceutical Association discovered. Even though the group’s spending for the first quarter was $679,000, up from $565,000 in the previous period, it was still not able to outmaneuver the name-brand drug companies.

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