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Small Nations Spend Big on Lobbying in Washington, D.C.

New database of federal records shows tiny countries have used big-time Washington lobbyists to plead their cases in the United States.

Tiny countries have used big-time Washington lobbyists to plead their cases in the United States, a new database of federal records shows.

An analysis of 2009 foreign lobbying records by the Sunlight Foundation shows that overseas governments, political parties and other government-controlled entities spent $60 million influencing officials in Washington.

The new lobbying data show that among the countries that spent the most on lobbying was the Cayman Islands, home to about 55,000 people, which spent $7.9 million on issues relating to tourism and economics. Fifteen separate organizations from the United Arab Emirates spent $5.4 million on a variety of issues from nuclear energy to tourism.

That data is searchable online through the Foreign Lobbyist Influence Tracker.

The database, a joint project of ProPublica and The Sunlight Foundation, was built from reports filed with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

The new data show that thousands of contacts made on behalf of foreign countries include everything from e-mails and phone calls to in-person meetings -- with government officials, think tanks and even journalists. The data show that the groups contacted U.S. lawmakers or their staffs 17,000 times.

The first release of this project last year found that in many cases these lobbying efforts paid off. FARA filings from 2008 showed that lobbying on behalf of Bermuda's large reinsurance industry resulted in a bill to give businesses and homeowners in hurricane zones taxpayer-subsidized loans for storm windows and doors. The move would save insurance companies millions in losses.

Under FARA, all lobbyists who represent foreign governments, political parties and government-controlled entities in a "political or quasi-political capacity" must file disclosures. The forms list activities, fees received, political contacts and any campaign contributions. This update means that the database includes filings from 2008 and 2009.

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