$600 Million Spent on Early '97 Lobbying

Article excerpt

Finally, political watchdogs can put a cost on lobbying as the first reports stemming from the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995 reveal what trade groups and corporations spend to woo Congress.

The Center for Responsive Politics in Washington places a $1.2 billion annual price tag on the lobbying industry, most of which is done inside the Beltway.

That analysis is based on reports from trade groups and corporations that they spent more than $600 million on lobbying in just the first six months of 1997.

"The overall figure is probably much larger. That doesn't take into consideration part-time lobbying" or organizations that aren't required to report because they spend less than $10,000 total, said Allan Shuldiner, author of the center's report "Who's in the Lobby? A Profile of Washington's Influence Industry."

By comparison, political parties and federal candidates spent about $2.2 billion in hard money, which is spent on behalf of individual candidates, and soft money, which is spent on party-building, during the entire 1995-1996 campaign season.

More than 7,000 organizations used in-house lobbyists, lobbying firms or both in the first half of last year. Of those, at least 1,850 kept some of their lobbying in house.

Washington lobbyists Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand topped the charts, billing more than $8.44 million in fees in the first six months of 1997. That money came primarily from contracts with five tobacco companies worth $940,000 each, according to the report, which was released Friday. Former Senate majority leaders George Mitchell and Bob Dole both work for the firm.

Cassidy & Associates came in a close second with 104 clients and $8.31 million in revenue from lobbying fees.

The center warns not to take the reports as gospel; it said it found many mistakes.

For example, the report cites the lobbying report from UST, the corporate parent of U.S. Tobacco. The company reported spending $60,000 on lobbying, but Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand reported that the cigarette maker paid it $940,000 for its services.

The center also said that the federal government does little to enforce the lobbying laws, which requires tracking spending, and that underreported lobbying figures go unchallenged. …