More than $2.4 billion has been spent on lobbying the federal government so far this year, down slightly from the same period last year, according to a recent analysis by a non-profit, non-partisan government watchdog group.
The Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors money in politics, issued a report last week saying more than $770 million was spent on lobbying during the last three months. The top spending sectors are the usual suspects, including health, finance, and energy.
The top overall individual spender for the quarter was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $14.4 million and increased its 2011 lobbying total to more than $46 million, according to the center.
"The chamber's lobbying activity remained consistent with previous non-election years and resulted in a number of positive results for our members, including Congress passing the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama," writes J.P. Fielder, a chamber spokesman, in an e-mail.
The report highlighted slight declines in spending by the energy and transportation industries and increases in the areas of health and communications and electronics. The finance and labor fields maintained consistent spending, according to the center.
Energy lobbying was down more than almost any other sector compared to the first three quarters of last year, according to the center's analysis. The industry spent at least $87 million on lobbying in the third quarter and a total of $288 million so far this year. Last year, it spent $341 during the same period, according to CRP.
Though the center found finance industry spending remained steady, their closer analysis revealed it was a mixed bag. Two major companies, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, increased lobbying spending, while Goldman Sachs and Citigroup spent less in the third quarter. Additionally, Bank of America's spending in the quarter was about the same as earlier this year, but overall is down from the two previous years.
The same story holds for labor spending on lobbying. While some major unions – Teamsters Union and the Service Employees International Union – have spent less, the AFL-CIO has increased spending since 2009, according to CRP.
The communications sector increase is driven by companies like Google, Facebook and Netflix expanding their Hill presence. Google has spent nearly $6 million this year—more than double what it spent during the same period in 2009—according to the center. Similarly, Facebook has spent about $900,000 so far, about five times what it spent in 2009.
"We want to help policymakers understand our business and the work we do to keep the Internet open, to encourage innovation, and to create economic opportunity. Lobbying is a part of that process," says Google in a release about their increased spending.
Google hired a dozen lobbying firms in anticipation of the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust investigation, according to reports.
On Monday, Google confirmed that its top lobbyist, Alan Davidson, had resigned. According to the Los Angeles Times, Davidson's resignation coincides with increased scrutiny from both Congress and federal regulators on Google's search and advertising practices.
Health industry spending was also up in the third quarter, led by the American Medical Association, which spent $7.3 million on lobbying, up from $4.4 million the previous quarter and a 30 percent increase since 2009, the report said.
The increased spending is due largely to a push by the group to permanently repeal the Medicare physician payment formula, a spokeswoman said. AMA hopes to convince the special committee charged with reducing the deficit to include the repeal in their final recommendation. The change would actually add to the deficit, but the group hopes it can become part of a fundamental restructuring of the entitlement program.
The formula was designed to trigger cuts to physician payments in Medicare as a balanced-budget mechanism. But Congress has traditionally voted to waive the cuts out of fear that some doctors would treat fewer Medicare patients or stop treating them altogether, thus restricting access to care.