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Lobbyist Dough Proves Loyal

Lobbyists' Headquarters, K Street, in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Karen Bleier/Getty Images) Back in the early part of 2007, when the Democrats supposedly rode in on their white horses to restore integrity to Congress, the first bill introduced in the Senate was the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. Among its many provisions was one requiring that lobbyists file semiannual disclosure reports, the idea being that lobbyist contributions should be given special attention. The new disclosures not only require lobbyists to disclose contributions given with their own money, but also contributions given from organizations controlled by the lobbyist.

Well, the inaugural results, for the first half of 2008, are in. The House clerk has provided a searchable database online. The New York Timessurveys the field of lobbyists who gave more than $25,000 in campaign contributions during that time frame and pronounces the conventional wisdom that "most lobbyists hedged their bets by donating freely to members of both parties" has been shattered.

Fifty lobbyists gave over $25,000. Of those, 40 gave more than 80 percent of their contributions to one party, the Times found. Predictably, most (24) favored the party in control of Congress, the Democrats. In terms of money, about "$1 million of the top lobbyists' contributions, or 57 percent, went to Democrats, while $715,000, or 40 percent, went to Republicans."

Since a lobbyist trades on their relationships to those in power, it makes sense that a lobbyists' giving would reflect a certain specialization. As one former Democratic Senate aide turned lobbyist, who contributed heavily to Senate Democrats, explains, "I'm a creature of the Senate... The more Senate Democrats there are, the better for business, and the better for the country."

But even as these findings "show that party loyalty often wins out" for individual lobbyists, that does not seem to be the case for lobbying firms, as the Times notes lower down. Firms often bring Republican and Democratic lobbyists under the same roof for obvious business reasons -- you have to work both sides of the aisle. For a number of years, from 2002 to about 2006, it was possible for a number of firms to thrive as purely Republican operations, given that D.C. was a one-party town. But starting even before the 2006 mid-term elections, those firms began hiring Democrats.

Former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), for instance, is named as one of the biggest contributors. But earlier this year, Breaux went into business with former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) to form the Breaux Lott Leadership Group. A survey of contributions by other lobbyists at the firm, for instance, Lott's son Chet (a Republican), shows that the contributions by each of the firm's lobbyists reflect their individual specializations. As a firm, though, the giving is admirably bipartisan.

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