WASHINGTON -- Congress fiscal cliff fiasco, a flurry of lame-duck legislation and election-season politics drove some of the nations most powerful lobbying forces to increase their governmental influence efforts late last year, newly filed reports show.
Such an uptick foreshadows what could be more aggressive lobbying on federal finances, taxation and energy, along with social issues such as immigration and gun ownership that President Barack Obama enumerated in his inaugural address Monday.
The trend may end a prolonged lobbying-spending slowdown during much of 2011 and 2012 that was largely prompted by Capitol Hill gridlock and a dearth of meaningful legislation receiving consideration.
In all, about half of last years top 100 lobbying organizations spent more on lobbying in the fourth quarter than they did in the third quarter. About half also showed an overall increase in spending for the year, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of congressional disclosure reports and Center for Responsive Politics data indicates.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerces year-over-year lobbying spending skyrocketed more than 88 percent, from $66.4 million to more than $125 million, to easily lead all other organizations.
Prominent business and financial lobbies, meanwhile, rank among organizations that spent significantly more during the fourth quarter than they did during the third quarter, including the National Association of Realtors ($15.4 million from $9.8 million), the Business Roundtable ($4.8 million from $4 million), JPMorgan Chase & Co. ($3.2 million from $1.4 million) the American Bankers Association ($2.1 million from $1.8 million) and Visa ($1.7 million from $1.1 million), records show.
For the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers, the jump represents an intensified effort to influence fiscal cliff negotiations, permanent normalized trade relations with Russia and tax restructuring, said Tita Freeman, an organization spokeswoman.
But percentage-wise, the greatest lobbying-spending growth late in 2012 came from companies representing a variety of industries that were aghast at the package of automatic tax increases and spending cuts known as sequestration that had been slated for implementation had Congress not struck a last-minute deal to avoid them.
They include information technology behemoth Oracle Corp. ($1.8 million during the fourth quarter, from $640,000 during the third quarter), energy giant Southern Co. ($5.1 million from $2.5 million), Duke Energy ($2.3 million from $1.3 million) and Dow Chemical ($2.6 million from $1.6 million), according to congressional records.
Defense contractors Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics reported moderate increases from the third quarter to the fourth. These and other companies that rely on government contracts stood to potentially lose billions of dollars had automatic federal-spending cuts been put in place at the end of 2012.
While not yet among the nations biggest-spending lobbying forces, the National Rifle Association and its Institute for Legislative Action together fueled their 2012 efforts with about $3 million more than in any other year.
The NRA now finds itself in the midst of a nationwide conversation, and looming political battle, over restrictions on gun ownership after the December massacre of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school.