Some spending on K St. up even as economy ails

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), for example, reported spending nearly $5.8 million in the past three months alone. That’s an increase over the roughly $1 million the group spent during the second quarter of the year.

“There are more issues that are before Congress that will have a direct impact on manufacturers’ ability to create jobs and compete in the global economy,” said Erin Streeter, a spokeswoman for the group. She mentioned healthcare, climate change, taxes and the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to form unions, as the major issues NAM was concerned with.

“There is a lot going on,” Streeter said.

Washington’s biggest spender, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spent a whopping $35 million to lobby on climate change, healthcare, financial services reform and a bevy of other issues over the past three months. The Chamber had spent a total of $17.5 million to influence lawmakers in the first six months of the year.

General Electric, which historically has been among the biggest spenders in Washington, is spending even more in 2009. It reported expenditures of just under $7 million for the third quarter, versus the $4.8 million it spent during the same period in 2008. Its third quarter totals were down, however, from the $7.2 million GE had spent to lobby Congress in the second quarter of this year, on issues ranging from the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization to patent reform to the economic recovery bill to climate change.

Not surprisingly, companies and trade groups directly affected by the major legislative pushes this Congress increased their spending accordingly.

The National Association of Realtors, for example, which is working to extend the homebuyers tax credit, spent more than $4.2 million in the third quarter, about $400,000 more than it spent during the year-ago period. The NAR spent $3.8 million during the second quarter of 2009 to influence Congress.

Climate change legislation drove other groups to spend more trying to influence Congress.

The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, reported spending nearly $2.7 million to lobby Congress. For the first half of the year, the trade group had spent more than $5 million on advocacy. In total, EEI is spending around 33 percent more to lobby in 2009 than it had in 2008.

Another large energy group, the American Petroleum Institute, spent $2.7 million on lobbying during the past three months. That’s more than $1 million higher than what API spent to lobby during the third quarter of 2008.

It is also a significant increase from the $1.9 million API spent during the second quarter and the $1.8 million it spent during the first quarter of 2009.

And healthcare continued to be a boon to K Street.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent just under $6.8 million for the third quarter, compared to $5.4 million in 2008.

Some of the lobbying increases are more surprising given that the third quarter includes August, which is typically a sleepy month in Washington with Congress on recess.

Streeter of NAM said expenditures from advertising and grassroots advocacy it did over the recess on climate change and healthcare were included in the recent spending reports, which entities that lobby are required to file every quarter with Congress.

The higher spending levels were far from universal, however.

Some of K Street’s biggest benefactors have cut back significantly on spending, including General Motors, which basically stopped lobbying as it underwent bankruptcy. The car company spent $2.7 million to lobby Congress in the third quarter of 2008, but only $180,000 during the same period this year.

The American Medical Association, which has lobbied heavily on healthcare reform, nevertheless reported spending less to do so in 2009 than it had in 2008. So far this year, AMA has spent around $12.1 million to lobby Congress versus the $15.2 million it had spent in 2008 at this point.

And drug maker Eli Lilly reported spending just over $2 million to lobby during the third quarter of 2009 versus the $3.3 million it spent during the same period in 2008.