High-Stakes Battle Area Firms Fight for Last-Minute Favors in D.C

By Comerford, Mike | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 20, 2001 | Go to article overview

High-Stakes Battle Area Firms Fight for Last-Minute Favors in D.C


Comerford, Mike, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

Pressure is building on Capitol Hill as legislators scramble to simultaneously deal with war, recession, an economic stimulus package and the budget appropriations.

With sweeping legislation, tax cuts, emergency aid packages and military spending all being discussed this week, area corporations are on Capitol Hill making sure their influence is felt.

Corporate lobbying on Capitol Hill has long been part of doing business in America but recent events have raised the stakes.

"I haven't seen this much corporate activity up here since the Reagan tax cut in 1981," said Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, a consumer activist group focused on tax reform.

Part of what makes this budget period different than other years is that most of the governmental action being considered has been squeezed into the post-Sept. 11 time period. The end of the budget year is always hectic but this year has the added military and emergency relief dollars to dole out.

"The money spigot has been wide open since Sept. 11," said Jim Albertine, president of the American League of Lobbyists and founder of lobby firm Albertine Enterprises Inc. in Washington, D.C.

"And the eyes of all the corporations are directed like laser beams at those spigots," he said.

Congress is attempting to pass a tax package and a budget by week's end.

"Corporations know there is this window of opportunity and it is unclear how long they'll be able to work it," said Sheila Krumholz, research director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit research group that tracks corporate giving on Capitol Hill.

"They're anxious to make the most of their circumstances."

The stakes haven't escaped the attention of local companies. Last year alone, Chicago-based Boeing Co. spent $7.8 million on lobbying efforts, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Elk Grove Township-based UAL Corp.' s United Airlines spent $3.2 million, the organization said.

That does not include money they spent on political action committees or so-called soft money, which is money given to political parties rather than individuals and which is not limited by federal election laws.

Boeing has one of the larger lobby operations on Capitol Hill, employing 20 in-house lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and routinely hiring outside lobbyists as well, according the company. The office is led by Rudy F. de Leon, former deputy secretary of defense under President Clinton.

At a time when defense spending is up due to the military actions in Afghanistan, Boeing is the lead contractor on contracts valued at $10 billion in the Pentagon's 2002 budget, the company estimates. Boeing is the Pentagon's second largest contractor, after Lockheed Martin Corp.

Boeing has some large contracts in the balance. It is working on a deal to lease the Air Force 100 new 767 wide-body jets for use as refueling and reconnaissance planes. Some estimate such a deal could reap $20 billion in revenue over 10 years.

As for United Airlines, it was the recipient of a portion of the $15 billion relief package for the industry that was adopted shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. United has already collected $665 million from the government and is now in line for millions in loans.

Airlines benefited from some high profile help. …

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