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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Continues to Spend Heavily on Lobbying, Filings Show

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, led by Thomas Donohue (left), is living up to its reputation as a big spender on K Street, according to a first quarter Lobbying Disclosure Act report.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the 100-year-old big business group, spent more than $20 million on lobbying in the first quarter of the year, nearly double what it spent in the corresponding period of 2011, according to just-filed reports with Congress.

The chamber’s quarterly lobbying bill during the height of the health care debate at the end of 2009 soared to $71 million, cementing its reputation as the biggest spender on K Street. This year, issues such as an overhaul of the tax code, a jobs bills, highway funding and tort reform helped fuel the chamber’s legislative portfolio, according to the 62-page report filed today with the House and Senate. All first-quarter reports are due at midnight.

Chamber spokeswoman Blair Latoff said the group files Lobbying Disclosure Act reports under a method also used for the Internal Revenue Service, which requires disclosure of money spent on issue advocacy ads. Many other lobby groups avoid the method.

“In our mind it is more transparent,” Latoff said.

The chamber, she added, ran ads in the first quarter against the health care law — which is facing a constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court — as well as on tax, energy and travel and tourism matters.

Other big spenders on K Street during the first quarter included the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the prescription drug lobby, which reported spending $5.3 million, up from last year’s first quarter filing of $4.5 million. The American Medical Association reported spending $4.7 million, an increase from $4.3 million at the same time last year. And defense and aerospace giant Boeing Co., which has been furiously lobbying for a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, reported spending $4.1 million, about the same as in the first quarter of 2011.

Business for outside firms seems to be holding steady, the filings show.

K Street’s biggest shop, Patton Boggs, reported a slight dip for the first quarter, bringing in $12.2 million, compared with $12.3 million in last year’s first quarter.

But some of the city’s largest practices experienced solid growth. And many lobbyists say they are optimistic about the rest of this year, with a potentially active lame-duck session of Congress on the horizon after Election Day.

Alston & Bird reported $3.3 million for the first quarter, up from $3.1 million for the first three months of last year. K&L Gates improved, too, bringing in $4.7 million in the most recent filing period over last year’s first quarter tally of $4.6 million.

With tax cuts expiring and automatic spending cuts looming at year’s end, lobbyists say clients are not cutting back as much as they might ordinarily in a presidential election year when Capitol Hill is largely gridlocked.

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