The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on pace to dwarf its lobbying expenditures during the past two election cycles, dumping nearly $45 million so far this year into advocacy and voter education in Washington, D.C., and around the country.
The business group reported spending more on lobbying than any other corporation or trade association for the second quarter of 2012 – more than $22.5 million – according to Lobbying Disclosure Act filings posted Friday. That’s about $2 million more than in the previous quarter.
The numbers reflect the Chamber’s ambition to play a much bigger role in this year’s elections than in previous cycles. It reported spending $34.6 million in the first two quarters of 2010 and just $17.7 million in the first two quarters of 2008.
“We’ve been on air earlier than ever before,” said Blair Latoff, a spokeswoman for the group. “Our efforts are proportional to the threats that our members are facing. The Chamber is engaging in its largest and most aggressive voter education campaign in our 100 year history.”
From January to June of this year the business group, one of the most powerful outside influencers in Washington, reported spending almost as much as in all of 2011. Still, the group has suffered some legislative setbacks this year, including failed campaigns to pass online piracy legislation and ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Its legal arm, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, reported $6.2 million in expenditures in the second quarter.
Unlike many firms and associations subject to the LDA, the Chamber includes all election-related spending in its quarterly tally, including grass-roots and voter education expenses.
But with partisan gridlock and the presidential election year slowing legislative activity to a near halt, Washington’s other powerful forces continued to scale back their lobbying expenditures in the second quarter.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $4.8 million this quarter, down $470,000 from the previous quarter. Drug maker Novartis practically cut its spending in half, to $1.4 million this quarter. AT&T’s expenditures dropped nearly $3.5 million from the first quarter, to $3.4 million. The decrease came after Congress passed spectrum auction legislation at the end of last year.
There are still exceptions to every trend. AARP, for example, spent $2.7 million on lobbying in the second quarter — $800,000 more than in the previous quarter. Still, that is just more than half of what it spent during the same period last year.
Some of the city’s largest firms with diverse client bases held relatively constant.
Business at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, one of Washington’s top five lobbying firms in 2011, posted second quarter revenue of $5.8 million for a midyear total of $11.5 million, a 7 percent increase from the year before.
“Despite the typical slow down our industry sees in a presidential election year, we have remained very active across a broad spectrum of issues and industries,” Al Mottur, managing partner of Brownstein’s Washington, D.C., office said in a statement. The firm took on several new clients this year, including Sony Corporation of America and Dish Network LLC.
A similar story played out at Venable LLP, which reported a $2.7 million in the second quarter for a combined $5.3 for the first half of the year. K&L Gates reported $4.6 million in revenue in the second quarter, about the same as the previous quarter and roughly on par with last year.
Van Scoyoc Associates reported $6 million in LDA revenue, up $1 million from the first quarter. Still, the firm, another top five shop last year, was not able to match its 2011 mid-year revenues of $12.4 million.
As of 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 71 firms, trade associations and corporations reported spending more than $1 million trying to influence Congress and the administration in the second quarter of 2012. In the first quarter of this year, 143 organizations reported spending more than $1 million.
Second quarter forms were due at midnight Friday and reports from many of the biggest spenders, including the National Association of Realtors, Pfizer, Exelon, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Verizon and Comcast, had not been posted as of 7:30 p.m.