Wall Street's lobbying pricetag: $251 million

By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer


WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- The financial industry has spent $251 million on lobbying so far this year as lawmakers hammered out new rules of the road for Wall Street, according to the latest lobbying reports compiled by a watchdog group.

The financial sector spent more than any other special interest group from April through the end of June -- a whopping $126 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' latest estimates. Wall Street banks, as well as insurance and real estate firms, hiked the amount they spent on lobbying by 12% in the second quarter compared to the same period last year.

"Financial reform certainly drove Wall Street lobbying efforts," said Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. "Even as the economy remains beaten and bruised, with some financial institutions continuing to struggle, most banks and securities houses found it in their budgets to hire lobbyists - and lots of them."

In the first half of 2010, Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) spent $2.7 million, just $100,000 shy of the total the firm spent on lobbying in all of 2009. The firm's reports to the federal government said it lobbied Treasury, White House and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as well as Congress.

Other banks also flexed their muscle on Capitol Hill this year. Citigroup Inc. (C, Fortune 500) spent $3 million and Bank of America Corp. (BAC, Fortune 500) spent $2.1 million on lobbying during the first half of this year, the Center for Responsive Politics reports.

Banking and financial lobbying groups are among the heavy hitters so far in 2010. The American Bankers Association (ABA) has spent $4.5 million and the Financial Services Roundtable has spent $4.2 million on lobbying so far this year, while the Securities Industry & Financial Market Association (SIFMA) has spent $2.8 million.

Financial Services Roundtable and SIFMA declined to comment. The ABA said it would respond with a request for comment soon.

There was plenty of evidence of financial sector lobbying throughout in the period leading up to final passage of the Wall Street reform bill last month.

In June, during the final 20-hour meeting of the panel to reconcile differences between the House and Senate reform bills, lobbyists suddenly packed a congressional office meeting room a bit after midnight, as lawmakers started tackling the final details of making derivatives more transparent. In hallways, they cornered House members who serve on the Agriculture Committee, in particular.

In late May, JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon made calls to a couple of lawmakers who were expected to be named to the conference panel.JP Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) spent $3 million on lobbying in the first half of the year, about the same as in 2009, according to the Center.

While the financial sector was active, other industries also dug deep into their wallets to talk to lawmakers. Despite the fact that the health care bill passed in March, the Center said health firms spent nearly as much as Wall Street firms did in the second quarter, $125 million. So far this year, the health care industry has spent $267 million on lobbying.

Overall, all lobbying totaled $1.78 billion in the first half of the year, up 7.5% in from the same six months in 2009. If it continues at that pace, 2010 will be a record year for lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

However, fewer lobbyists are pounding the pavement, as the number of lobbyists dropped 5% compared to the same period in 2009. To top of page

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