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Lobbying Spending Drops in Most Sectors

Over the past year, the social networking company added a former Bush administration official, Catherine Martin, to its lobbying team and moved its D.C. operations from a quaint Dupont Circle space to larger downtown offices.

“This increase represents a continuation of our efforts to explain how our service works as well as the important actions we take to protect people who use our service and promote the value of innovation to our economy,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an email. Facebook’s lobbying filings list federal privacy legislation, freedom of expression on the Internet and Federal Communications Commission rulemaking on net neutrality as issues of concern to the company.

Big lobbying budgets have not always brought successful results. One of the top spenders in the first quarter was General Electric, which lobbied to build an alternative engine with Rolls-Royce for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. However, GE lost its bid when the House voted to strike funding for the engine. This week, the Defense Department ended its contract with the companies.

The engine will be built by United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney unit.

GE spent $8.5 million on lobbying in the first three months of this year, compared to $7.3 million during the same time last year. United Technologies spent almost $6 million on lobbying in the first three months of the year, up from almost $4 million in the first quarter of last year.

With the tsunami in Japan causing a nuclear power crisis in that country, nuclear energy advocates here stepped up their advocacy as well. The Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents nuclear power providers, spent $545,000 in the first quarter up from $430,000 in the first three months of 2010. However, Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman Steve Kerekes said that since the disaster occurred March 11, he was not sure if “that would have been enough time to reflect anything or not” in terms of the group’s reported spending on the issue.

The Republican takeover of the House contributed to shipping giant FedEx cutting its lobbying tab.

Last year FedEx was engaged in a lobbying war aimed at defeating a union-backed provision in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill championed by former House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar, (D-Wis.). The provision, backed by shipping rival UPS, would have made it easier for FedEx drivers to organize. However, Oberstar lost his bid for re-election and the new Republican-led House has approved FAA legislation without the union provision.

In the first quarter of this year FedEx reported spending almost $3.9 million on lobbying compared to $6 million in the fourth quarter of 2010 and almost $4.9 million in the first quarter of last year.

UPS spent roughly the same in the first quarter of this year, almost $1.6 million, as it did during the same period last year.

The biggest drop in lobbying spending this year was reported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has traditionally topped the list in terms of lobbying expenditures.

The chamber reported spending less than $11 million in the first quarter of this year, compared to $25.1 million in the first three months of 2010 when the business group was involved in a massive campaign to defeat the health care overhaul legislation.

Kate Ackley contributed to this report.

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