NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Lobbying appears to be recession-proof, according to a report out by the Center for Responsive Politics today.
Companies and interest groups spent a record $3.47 billion on federal lobbying in 2009, a 5% increase over the year before, according to the watchdog group, which tracks money in U.S. politics at its site OpenSecrets.org.
That's surprising, said spokesman Dave Levinthal, since those results come during a year when the recession persisted, the dollar declined and unemployment soared.
"Most people would think that when the economy was as utterly rotten as it was in 2009 that companies might be scaling back their efforts in influencing the federal government," he said. "That the opposite proved true is really a testament to many companies' desire to press forward special interests at the federal level."
Issues like health care, financial reform, climate-change legislation and jobs drove lobbying activity in a year when Congress was notably busy, Levinthal said.
The pharmaceutical and health industry dominated lobbyist spending in D.C. at an estimated $266.8 million -- the greatest amount ever spent by a single industry in one year, according to OpenSecrets. Other big spenders included business associations ($183 million), oil and gas ($168.4 million) and insurance ($164.2 million).
Each of those sectors spent more in 2009 than in 2008.
The biggest lobbying powerhouse was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The association, which represents more than 3 million businesses in various industries, has held the top-spender spot for nine consecutive years. In 2009, the Chamber shelled out about $145 million -- the largest sum spent by a single interest group in one year. That figure marks a 6% increase from last year's lobbying expenses.
"The legislative calendar was very full, and this is a natural response to that," said Eric Wohlschlegel, a Chamber spokesperson.
The deadline to disclose lobbying activity was Jan. 20. A small number of companies and organizations may submit their disclosure reports late or file minor amendments, slightly changing the figures in OpenSecrets' report.
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