Americans for George, a coalition that wants to prevent the dollar coin from replacing the dollar bill, is stepping up its lobbying efforts as Congress considers phasing out the paper dollar to save money.
Crane & Co., the Massachusetts-based company that provides the paper for the nation’s currency, is rushing to the defense of the greenback now that Congress might actually eliminate the dollar bill.
In the past several months, the company has tripled its lobbying expenditures, brought on a new team of lobbyists and helped plaster Washington, D.C.’s Metro Center station with advertisements — the political equivalent of a shriek.
With legislation to eliminate the dollar bill in favor of a dollar coin gaining traction in both chambers, the parochial tug of war between paper and copper has become an increasingly public battle.
Even the Obama administration’s decision to halt the production of new coins in mid-December did not stop both sides from pouring more money into lobbying, polling and advertisements.
Crane, which moved sluggishly at first, paying one lobbyist just $20,000 to fight the bills in the first half of 2011, spent an additional $60,000 from July through December. Last month the company hired Gephardt Government Affairs, led by former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), which plans to field a team of four lobbyists, according to federal filings.
Paper is not the only player. Sicpa Securink Corp., a Swiss-based ink company that supplies the ink for paper currency around the world, also paid the same four lobbyists more than $300,000 during that time period to fight the proposals. The company did not return Roll Call’s request for comment.
The push for a dollar coin has been going on for decades among fiscal hawks focused on replacing paper dollars, but the movement has gained fresh momentum amid growing alarm over the federal deficit. Supporters argue the change could save the government hundreds of millions of dollars, and they have aggressively fought opposition in Congress, especially from Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry (D) and Scott Brown (R).
In January, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced a bill to phase out the paper dollar and replace it with the coin. A House version of the bill, introduced in September by Republican Reps. David Schweikert (Ariz.) and Jeb Hensarling (Texas), now has 12 co-sponsors.
The movement is largely the work of the Dollar Coin Alliance — a coalition of brass and copper producers and coin-operated machine companies — and its public face, former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) of Arizona, the country’s largest supplier of copper, who introduced similar legislation at least five times during his career. The group spent almost $700,000 lobbying Congress in 2011.