Feb. 6, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Big Business Opens Up Deep Wallets to Sway Bills

Locked in a bitter legislative battle, package delivery giants FedEx and United Parcel Service this summer decided the way to woo lawmakers was to ramp up their lobbying budgets.

From July through September, UPS shelled out $4.4 million to influence federal lawmakers, a whopping $3 million increase from the previous three-month period. FedEx, meanwhile, doled out $5.6 million on lobbying during the same period, up almost $2 million from the prior quarter.

The frenzied summer activity, which included a letter-writing campaign by UPS to Congress, catapulted both companies into the ranks of the biggest spenders on lobbying, according to a review of third-quarter lobbying reports that were due to be filed with Congress on Tuesday.

The latest disclosures underscore that despite the weak economy and President Barack Obama’s barring of lobbyists from working in the executive branch, many of the nation’s key industries and other interests continue to open their wallets in an effort to shape major and minor legislation.

Driving much of the activity is the ambitious Congressional agenda that includes potential reforms of the health care system, proposed regulation of financial companies, union organizing and climate change legislation as well as traditional fights over lucrative defense projects.

Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a fiscal watchdog group, said that even though lobbyists are not in favor with the White House, “their love affair still burns bright with Congress.”

Ellis said many companies are willing to spend money to nab a piece of the growing federal budget.

The deadline for filing the disclosure forms was midnight Tuesday. But many large industries and associations had already filed their disclosure forms earlier in the day.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has historically led in lobbying expenditures, continued to do so, spending a record $34.7 million for the quarter. The business group, which has opposed the administration in such areas as health care, climate change and financial regulation, dramatically upped its spending over the summer. It spent $7.4 million in the second quarter .

The National Association of Manufacturers, which often works with the chamber, also opened its wallet for lobbying by spending $5.7 million in the quarter, compared with $1 million during the spring period.

Another group that significantly raised its lobbying budget was the American Beverage Association, with reported spending of $7.3 million in the third quarter, compared with $1.2 million in the previous period.

The beverage association was fighting a proposed soda tax that had been floated, but has not been adopted, as a way to pay the tab for health care reform. On its lobbying disclosure, the association called the proposed fee “unfair taxes.”

“It just reflects the situation we found ourselves in,” said Kevin Keane, senior vice president of public affairs for the association. He said much of the additional lobbying went toward TV ads.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which has been a key player in the health care debate, also was among the top spenders, shelling out $6.8 million in the third quarter, up slightly from $6.1 million in the previous period.

Close behind was the nation’s largest senior citizens group, AARP, which is also keenly interested in health care reform. It spent $5.7 million, up from $5.3 million the previous quarter.

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