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U.S. Chamber Reports Eye-Popping $123 Million to Lobby

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been leading a high-priced campaign against health care legislation, shelled out $123 million for federal lobbying in 2009, almost double what the business group spent the previous year.

The chamber spent $71.1 million in the last three months of 2009, exceeding what the group spent for all of 2008, when its yearly lobbying tab was $62.3 million, according to disclosure reports filed with Congress.

The chamber filed its 86-page fourth-quarter disclosure report with the Secretary of the Senate on Wednesday, the deadline for all lobby filings.

“It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone because it was an incredibly active year for the president and the economy,” said Tita Freeman, a chamber spokeswoman. “Hence the chamber was active in all of the major debates that impacted the economy and business community.”

Freeman said the big spike in spending in the fourth quarter was due largely to health care, including issue ads, meetings and letter-writing campaigns.

Aside from health care, the chamber listed a slew of other lobbying issues, including energy and climate change legislation, endangered species regulatory processes, executive compensation and travel promotion.

The influential business group has been at loggerheads with the Obama administration over much of the White House agenda. But it has forged coalitions with other business groups, which have run national ads against the Democratic health care reform plans.

The chamber has in recent years racked up the biggest lobbying bill among all the associations and industries that lobby Washington.

The group’s lobbying expenditures do not include $20.8 million spent by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform in 2009. That figure is down from $29.2 million that the institute spent in 2008.

Another top business group, the Business Roundtable, composed of top corporate executives, reported spending $13.2 million in 2009 on lobbying, almost the same as the previous year.

Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents drug companies, spent $26.1 million on lobbying in 2009 compared with $20.2 million the previous year, according to recently filed reports.

The American Medical Association disclosed it spent $20.1 million on lobbying in 2009, about the same as the previous year. The seniors group AARP spent $20.9 million last year, down from $27.1 million in 2008.

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