01/24/2013 10:55 am ET Updated Mar 26, 2013

Fiscal cliff, elections boost spending on lobbying

By Dave Levinthal

Congress' fiscal cliff fiasco, a flurry of lame duck legislation and election-season politics drove some of the nation's most powerful lobbying forces to double down on their governmental influence efforts late last year, newly filed reports show.

Such an uptick foreshadows what could be ever-more-aggressive lobbying on federal finances, taxation, energy and social issues like immigration and gun ownership as President Barack Obama enumerated in his inaugural address Monday.

The trend may end a prolonged lobbying spending slowdown largely prompted by Capitol Hill gridlock and a dearth of meaningful legislation receiving consideration during much of 2011 and 2012.

In all, about half of the year's top 100 lobbying organizations spent more on lobbying in the fourth quarter of last year than in the third quarter. About half also showed an overall increase in spending for 2012, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of congressional disclosure reports and Center for Responsive Politics data indicates.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's year-over-year lobbying spending skyrocketed more than 88 percent, from $66.4 million to more than $125 million, to easily lead all other organizations.

Prominent business and financial lobbies, meanwhile, rank among organizations that spent significantly more during the fourth quarter of 2012 than they did during the third quarter, including the National Association of Realtors ($15.4 million from $9.8 million), the Business Roundtable ($4.8 million from $4 million), JPMorgan Chase and Co. ($3.2 million from $1.4 million) the American Bankers Association ($2.1 million from $1.8 million) and Visa ($1.7 million from $1.1 million), records show.

For the Business Roundtable, the jump represents an "intensified effort" to influence fiscal cliff negotiations, permanent normalized trade relations with Russia and tax reform, said Tita Freeman, an organization spokesperson.

But percentage-wise, the greatest lobbying spending growth late in 2012 comes from companies representing a variety of industries aghast at the package of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that had been slated for implementation had Congress not struck a last-minute deal to avoid them.

Continue this story and read more investigations at The Center for Public Integrity