Democrats have taken more money from lobbyists than Republicans during the past 15 years, according to an independent analysis of campaign contributions.
Since the 1990 election cycle, Democrats have accepted more than $53 million from lobbyists while Republicans have taken more than $48 million for their election campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Data provided by the nonpartisan group also shows that when Democrats controlled Congress in the early 1990s, they consistently hauled in more than 70 percent of the town’s lobbyist money. The group is a leading critic of Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay’s ties to lobbyists.
“When the Democrats were in charge, they were getting an incredibly higher amount of lobbyist money compared to Republicans,” said Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Now that the tables are turned there is parity between the two parties.”
Last year, for instance, Republicans took in 55 percent of the lobbyist money, which roughly corresponds to their majority share in Congress.
Mr. Nick said the figures “take the wind out of Democrat sails” for their charge that Republicans have ushered in a “culture of corruption” that breeds extensive ties to lobbyists.
Democrats do not dispute the data, but accuse Republicans of operating at the behest of the lobbyists who fund their campaigns.
“Since the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, they have not only taken more money from lobbyists, they have given everything they can give to lobbyists,” said Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“I’ll personally give ten bucks to anyone who can come up with an example of major legislation the GOP Congress has passed that didn’t do a favor for one of its special interest donors.”
Democrats also point to the overall lobbying industry, which has exploded in recent years.
“Republicans can point to the past, but they can’t justify the present,” said Rebecca Kirszner, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. “It is a simple fact — lobbying is booming under Bush. Since George Bush came to town, the number of lobbyists has doubled in Washington.”
In addition, the amount of money that lobbyists spend on campaign contributions has skyrocketed to more than $26 million in the 2004 election cycle from about $3 million in the 1990 election cycle. Lobby firms also are reporting record profits for last year.
Both sides cite as an example of lobbyists’ influence on their counterparts the recently derailed legislation to create a $140 billion trust fund to support victims of asbestos exposure.
Mr. Reid last week said the bill was a giveaway to lobbyists for insurance companies and asbestos companies seeking shelter from lawsuits. The trust fund would come from employers and insurance companies, but stop further asbestos lawsuits.
Republicans say the reason that Mr. Reid and mainly other Democrats filibustered the bill is because it would hurt trial lawyers — Democrats’ biggest group of supporters — who have gleaned large payoffs from victorious asbestos lawsuits. Some companies have been driven out of businesses by such losses.
In the last cycle alone, lawyers gave Democrats with $134 million in campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which does not include lawyer money in the same category as lobbyists. During that same time period, Republicans drew $45 million from lawyers.
“This is just the latest in a series of blunders by the Democrats — who in the absence of any agenda launch fledgling attacks that are not backed up by the facts,” Mr. Nick said.