WASHINGTON — The top 10 recipients of the government's $700 billion financial bailout spent about $9.5 million on federal lobbying during the first three months of the year.
The biggest spender was bailed-out automaker General Motors Corp., which devoted $2.8 million to lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. It has received $13.4 billion in government loans and could get $5 billion more, according to a government report released Tuesday.
Failed insurance giant American International Group Inc. and banks Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. each reported spending more than $1 million to influence the government as they lived off federal money this year. AIG has gotten some $70 billion from the bailout fund _ including a fresh $30 billion infusion the government reported on Tuesday _ while Citigroup has received $45 billion and JPMorgan $25 billion.
The lobbying activity was revealed publicly in reports required to be filed with Congress. This year's first quarterly report was due Monday.
Other major recipients of money from the so-called Troubled Assets Relief Program also had substantial lobbying costs in the first three months of this year, including:
_Bank of America Corp., which reported spending $660,000 lobbying while receiving its $45 billion in help;
_Wells Fargo & Company, with $700,000 in lobbying costs and $25 billion in bailout money;
_Goldman Sachs, which spent $670,000 while receiving its $10 billion;
_Morgan Stanley, which spent $540,000 while also getting $10 billion in assistance;
_PNC Financial Services Group, spent $135,000 _ nearly double what it did at the end of last year _ on lobbying while receiving a $7.8 billion lifeline;
_U.S. Bancorp spent $170,000 on lobbying and got $6.6 billion in government aid.
"They say they're not using public money for these purposes, but in effect these companies are steering taxpayer funds to lobbying and campaign contributions," said Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen. "It's completely unjustifiable."
The reports suggest that most of the bailed-out companies have beefed up their lobbying at least marginally since last year. Seven spent more to influence the government than they did in the last quarter of 2008.
The largest increases apart from PNC were by Goldman, which spent 34 percent more on lobbying than it did at the end of last year; Wells Fargo, which spent about 21 percent more, and JPMorgan, which lobbied 19 percent more. AIG also devoted some 16 percent more money to interacting with the government, despite the "no-lobbying" policy it adopted late last year after receiving repeated bailouts.
AIG said in its filing that it still had to spend considerable resources contacting officials during the first three months of the year. The communication was "in response to requests and to correct misinformation," the company reported. "Consistent with AIG's lobbying policy, the company did not engage in any lobbying with respect to federal legislation in the first quarter of 2009."
Still, Public Citizen's Holman noted that the lobbying disclosure law exempts expenditures made to comply with congressional hearings or to respond to requests by government officials for specific information. "What AIG's reporting is, in fact, influence peddling," he said.
The disclosures also show that AIG has fired several lobbyists since the beginning of the year, including from the powerhouse firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the prominent Republican company DC Navigators and The Washington Tax Group.
Among the companies that reduced their lobbying activity were Bank of America, which slashed its costs about 20 percent, and GM, which spent 15 percent less than during the last quarter of 2008.