The top eight spenders in the financial industry spent nearly $30 million to lobby Capitol Hill last year, according to Nathaniel Popper of the Los Angeles Times — a 13 percent increase from 2008. That uptick was fueled by a 12 percent increase — to 6.2 million — at J.P. Morgan Chase. Wells Fargo upped its lobbying expenditures 27 percent. And Morgan Stanley spent 16 percent more than last year. All three banks received TARP money from the federal government.
Overall, lobbying expenses across Washington increased less than 5 percent in 2009 — higher than the rate of inflation, certainly, but nearly half of the average yearly increase in spending seen during the last several years.
The financial sector’s increased commitment to Washington lobbying in 2009 was driven by multi-million dollar budget hikes in the commercial banking, credit union, credit card and venture capital sectors. Meanwhile, securities and investment firms posted a slight decline in their lobbying expenditures, as did private equity companies.
Those companies would undoubtedly insist — in compliance with the Byrd Amendment, which prohibits companies from spending money received from the federal government on lobbying — that there was a strict demarcation between corporate money and federal TARP funds. But when those TARP funds were used to keep the corporation afloat, it’s a paper-thin wall at best.