Lobbyist spending jumps 5 percent last year despite nation's recession woes

Lobbyists enjoyed record revenues while the rest of the country was struggling amid a deep recession, according to a report out Friday.

Last year saw a more than 5 percent increase in lobbying expenditures as compared to 2008, said a new report released Friday by the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog.

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More than $3.47 billion was spent on lobbying in 2009, about $170 million more than in 2008, according to the watchdog’s analysis.

“Lobbying appears recession-proof,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center's executive director, in a statement. “Even when companies are scaling back other operations, many view lobbying as a critical tool in protecting their future interests, particularly when Congress is preparing to take action on issues that could seriously affect their bottom lines.”

Lobbyists have said business for them managed to remain upbeat throughout 2009 despite the poor economy because of the Obama administration’s aggressive legislative agenda.

With expanded Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill from the 2008 election, the White House pushed sweeping bills to reform the healthcare industry, tackle climate change and bring Wall Street under control. None of that ambitious legislation has come to fruition yet, but President Barack Obama and other Democrats will want to finish those bills this year, so expect a busy 2010 for lobbying as well.

The healthcare debate took up much of the oxygen in Washington last year. So not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical and health products industry spent a record amount last year — close to $266.8 million — on federal lobbying.

That is the biggest lobbying expenditure ever by a single industry in one year, according to the report.

The report appears to tracks with an analysis by The Hill last month that showed at least 18 of the top 25 lobbying firms saw their revenue increase from 2008 to 2009. Perennial powerhouses Patton Boggs and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld topped the list, but The Hill’s analysis also showed remarkable growth for the Podesta Group, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and Holland & Knight during the recession.