Oil Spill, Wall Street Bill Drive K Street Spending

Posted July 20, 2010 at 6:01pm

The American Petroleum Institute, the trade group for Big Oil, almost doubled its lobbying tab in the second quarter of this year as it worked to fend off Members’ efforts to clamp down on drilling after the BP spill.

API shelled out $2.31 million during the three months that included the explosion of the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico. That April 20 disaster prompted some in Congress to push for new industry regulations. The Obama administration also sought to curb offshore drilling. The industry group, which counts BP as a member, spent $1.26 million on lobbying in the first quarter of this year.

The second-quarter lobbying reports, which were required to be filed with Congress by the end of Tuesday, show the flurry of activity by outside entities on Capitol Hill following the spill. A wide swath of groups, from those representing fishermen and shallow-water drillers to municipalities along the Gulf of Mexico, have beefed up their federal lobbying in the aftermath of the disaster. Transocean, the Swiss firm that leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, paid the Capitol Hill Consulting Group $110,000 to lobby on the issue.

A statement from API spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel said the group was focused on job creation and spurring the economic recovery.

“The increase in our advocacy is a direct response to anti-jobs legislation,” he said, adding that the group also was promoting safety measures and strengthening emergency response and preparedness.

In its 17-page lobbying report, API devoted a whole section to the litany of oil spill legislation before Congress that it has lobbied on, including amending the 1990 Oil Pollution Act and a measure to strengthen federal oversight of the blowout preventers that apparently failed on the BP rig.

API has opposed an offshoring drilling moratorium ordered by the White House and some of the legislation moving through Congress, such as lifting liability caps in the Oil Pollution Act, arguing it would dramatically increase energy costs.

In recent months, API President Jack Gerard has testified before numerous Congressional panels, and the group has run television ads warning about what it views as the harmful impact on consumers of increasing gas taxes.

API’s latest lobbying total is the highest quarterly bill racked up by the industry group in recent years. The closest number was in 2009 when it spent $2.1 million in the third quarter as Congress considered climate change legislation that the oil industry opposed.

The Wall Street bill continued to fuel business downtown, but not all industry groups and companies saw a rise during this year’s second quarter. With health care reform in the rearview mirror, some groups slowed their spending. The lobbying expenditures by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which last year broke spending records as it aggressively opposed the Democrats’ health care overhaul, plummeted in the second quarter after the measure passed in March.

The chamber reported spending
$9.4 million on lobbying from April through June, compared with $25.1 million in the first three months of the year and $71.1 million in the last quarter of 2009. Much of the chamber’s lobbying budget paid for an extensive national television campaign against the health care bill.

“The big drop-off is health care advertising,” said Bruce Josten, the chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs.

He said that while the chamber did some advertising in the second quarter on financial reform, it was confined to local radio and inside-the-Beltway publications. Josten said the recent quarter’s spending was more in line with the chamber’s budgets before health care. In the second quarter of 2009, for example, the chamber spent $7.4 million.

The chamber, as with many other trade groups, has begun to turn its attention to the midterm elections. Chamber officials say they hope to raise as much as $75 million to defeat lawmakers who supported the health care and financial services overhauls.

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, which reports its lobbying expenditures separately, spent about $3.75 million in the second quarter, about $2 million less than in the previous period.

The recent passage of the Wall Street measure, as well as unsuccessful efforts to approve tax-related legislation, helped drive more lobbying on Capitol Hill among a range of business interests in the second quarter.

The banking industry spent much of the spring trying to soften provisions of financial oversight legislation, which is expected to be signed today by President Barack Obama.

Even troubled banks that received federal assistance, such as Bank of America, shelled out significant sums to influence the measure. Bank of America reported spending $1.09 million in the second quarter of this year compared with $940,000 in the first three months of this year. The American Council of Life Insurers reported spending $2.3 million in the second quarter of this year, almost $1 million more than in the first three months of the year. A spokesman for the group attributed the uptick to lobbying on the financial reform legislation.

Venture capital and real estate groups were focused on killing a provision in the same bill that would have increased the tax rate on income paid to managers of investment funds. The National Venture Capital Association doled out $826,067 on lobbying between April and June, compared with $587,222 in the first three months of the year.

High-tech groups, meanwhile, were focused on legislation that would extend tax breaks for research and development that expired at the end of last year. Those breaks were included in a larger tax-and-spending bill that faced a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Hewlett-Packard, the California-based computer and information technology company, has ramped up its lobbying this year. It spent $3.2 million in the first half of 2010, compared with $1.63 million in the first six months of 2009. The company spent $1.6 million in the second quarter of this year, the same as it spent in the first quarter.

Other top spenders in the second quarter included AARP, which shelled out $4.25 million. That is slightly up from AARP’s $3.97 million lobbying tab in the first three months of the year, when the seniors group was pushing the health overhaul.

More recently AARP also has lobbied for the passage of the financial reform measure, including for more consumer and investor protections, according to its latest report.

As in the past, defense and aerospace contractors also topped the list of those willing to spend big on Capitol Hill. Boeing, which is competing to win a huge government contract to build a refueling tanker, spent $4.9 million in the second quarter, up almost $1 million from the first three months of the year.

UPS, which is engaged in a vicious fight with Federal Express over legislation regarding unionization of drivers, doled out $1.28 million in the second quarter, a little less than the previous period.

And the American Hospital Association, which lobbied for the health care reform legislation, spent $4.2 million in the second quarter, slightly more than the $3.75 million it spent in the first quarter.