U.S. Chamber Still Spends Big to Lobby

But Numbers Are Down From Health Care High

The nation’s biggest business lobby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was among the top spenders on Washington lobbying in the second quarter of the year. But the group’s $9 million was a sliver of the $71 million tab it had forked over in one quarter during the height of the health care debate.

From April through June, the chamber lobbied on a number of issues, including pressing for passage of three free-trade agreements and on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Internet gambling regulations and the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, according to a recently filed report to Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

The business organization’s second-quarter number marks a 17 percent decrease from this year’s first quarter, when it reported spending $10.9 million on lobbying. A chamber spokesperson could not be reached for comment by press time.

The chamber wasn’t the second quarter’s only big spender on lobbying.

The chamber’s affiliate Institute for Legal Reform reported $5.6 million. The drug industry’s chief lobbying group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, posted $4.7 million, up slightly from $4.5 million in the previous period. And AARP, the senior lobby that has been battling deficit reduction proposals to slice Medicare and Social Security, also reported $4.7 million for the quarter, a slight dip from its $5 million for the first quarter.

Some of the more obscure industry groups saw a significant jump in their lobby spending.

The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, which represents mechanics who are not affiliated with dealerships, reported spending almost $500,000, up about 150 percent from just less than $200,000 in the first quarter.

Aaron Lowe, the group’s vice president of government affairs, attributed the increase to a “right to repair” bill — legislation that would compel automakers to sell information and tools to repair their vehicles. The federal measure, which has about 23 co-sponsors, appears stalled as Members debate the fiscal crisis, but such a bill is gaining traction in Massachusetts.

“We’re working a lot more on the state level,” Lowe said.

The National Association of Manufacturers, a large K Street lobbying operation, reported a 60 percent downturn in its second-quarter filing. In the first quarter, NAM spent $2.7 million on lobbying, but that fell to $1.1 million for the most recent period. A NAM spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

The filing deadline for all second-quarter reports was midnight Wednesday.

Alex Knott contributed to this report.