Wall St spent heavily on lobbying Congress

* Wall Street spends millions lobbying Congress

* Goldman leads increased spending among top banks

* Allied special-interest groups also spend heavily

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, April 21 (BestGrowthStock) – Wall Street institutions
and allied special-interest groups poured tens of millions of
dollars into lobbying Congress in early 2010, as the political
focus shifted to financial reform from healthcare, official
data shows.

Six leading banks — JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N: ), Wells Fargo
(WFC.N: ), Citigroup (C.N: ), Bank of America (BAC.N: ), Goldman
Sachs (GS.N: ) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N: ) (Read more about the money market today. ) — spent a combined $6.9
million on lobbying in the first quarter. That marked a 4
percent increase from late last year and a jump of about
one-third from the first three months of 2009.

Goldman Sachs increased its lobbying spending by more than
71 percent in the first three months over the same period last
year.

It is on record as contributing $1.2 billion to lobbying
efforts in the three months prior to the Securities and
Exchange Commission’s fraud charges. It spent less than
$700,000 in the year ago period.

Trade associations and special-interest groups led by the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce also spent heavily, with the combined
total for 10 selected organizations giving $43.2 million, or
about two-thirds more than they spent in the first-quarters of
the last two years.

But several banks and groups scaled back from a surge of
lobby spending in the fourth-quarter of 2009, according to the
congressional filings that are mandated by law.

First-quarter spending figures offer a glimpse of the
behind-the-scenes wrangling on Capitol Hill as Wall Street
struggled to influence the financial reform debate triggered by
the 2008 financial crisis and the deep economic recession it
spawned.

At the same time, Wall Street banks have begun to favor
Republicans over Democrats in their campaign donations in the
2010 congressional elections, reversing their 2009 approach
that gave Democrats the edge.

“Wall Street’s been trying to figure out how to stop the
(regulatory) train from leaving the station and derail the
whole thing. But I think they’ve also realized that something
would pass and are also trying to find loopholes that can be
made as wide as possible,” said David Min of the
Washington-based think-tank Center for American Progress.

REFORM DEBATE

The reform debate now appears to be entering the home
stretch, with Republicans softening their opposition to
Democratic proposals to crack down on Wall Street.

Lobbying by organizations with a vested interest in
financial reform rose sharply late in 2009 after Senate Banking
Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd first introduced his
regulatory bill, according to lobbyists.

It intensified again in March when Dodd issued revised
legislation and began pushing the measure through his
committee.

The lobbying spending data that companies and their agents
must file with Congress each quarter does not provide a
complete picture of activity on any given topic.

Disclosure documents do not say how much money is spent on
a specific piece of legislation. In the first quarter, some
companies and special-interest groups also spent heavily on
healthcare reform in the first quarter.

First-quarter numbers may also be inflated by a new federal
standard that for required companies for the first time this
year to account for annual payments to trade associations in
the January to March quarter, said a bank official, who spoke
on condition of anonymity.

Organizations also define lobbying differently. One of the
biggest forces in lobbying — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce —
spent more than $30 million in the first quarter. But officials
said the total includes television advertising and other
activities unrelated to traditional Washington lobbying.

The chamber’s first quarter lobby figure was double what
the organization spent in the same period of last year but well
down from the nearly $80 million it spent in the final three
months of 2009 when healthcare dominated the U.S. political
debate.

Investing

(Reporting by David Morgan, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

Wall St spent heavily on lobbying Congress