Big Business Lobby Reports Huge Spending

Posted October 20, 2010 at 12:07pm

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce posted its biggest lobbying totals of the year on Wednesday, disclosing that it spent more than $29 million during the third quarter of 2010 to pressure Members on a campaign finance bill and dozens of other legislative issues.

“It was a very active quarter for the chamber, with the bulk of our efforts focusing on financial regulatory reform, implementation of the new health care law, and tax issues as well as voter education outside the beltway,” chamber spokeswoman Tita Freeman said in an e-mail. “We continue to advocate for policies that will enable our members to grow jobs.”

The trade association’s latest lobbying tab is roughly $20 million more than it spent in the second quarter of 2010, according to Senate lobbying records. During the first three months of 2010, Senate records show that the chamber spent $25.1 million on lobbying.

The latest totals come as the powerful trade group continues to spar with President Barack Obama. Led by liberal activists, the White House continues to suggest that the organization may be illegally funneling dues from foreign donors into its $75 million pre-election advertising blitz.

“Those groups owe it to the American people to tell us who they are, to describe based on that identity what their agenda is, why are they so heavily involved in these races,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters a week ago.

The charge, originally levied Oct. 5 by the left-leaning blog ThinkProgress, accused the chamber of “likely skirting long-standing campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.”

In late June, House Democrats narrowly approved the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that included provisions designed to discourage trade associations like the chamber from capitalizing on a recent Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. In its 5-4 decision earlier this year, the high court threw out most spending restrictions on TV ad buys by corporations, nonprofit organizations, unions and trade associations.

In its latest filing, the chamber reported lobbying against the DISCLOSE act in the third quarter.

Other trade associations and corporations also posted heavy spending during this year’s third quarter. The Boeing Co. spent $4.2 million, roughly the same amount it spent during the first three months of the year, but down from its nearly $5 million second-quarter totals, according to Senate lobbying records.

The White House-aligned Business Roundtable also spent mightily on lobbying in recent months, paying out $2.3 million during the third quarter. The American Chemistry Council, which counts energy and oil companies among its members, also spent more than $2 million during the third quarter, down from its $2.7 million in first quarter total but up from its $1.8 million second-quarter lobbying bill.