Monday, May 22, 2006

Lobbyists have given more than $103 million to members of Congress since 1998, according to a new report released yesterday by Public Citizen.

The $103.1 million total is “nearly double” the previous estimates, according to Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a consumer group founded by Ralph Nader.

Ms. Claybrook said the $103 million total was “more than enough money to publicly finance campaigns,” a political position that her group advocates.

The report shows that the top 10 lobbyists represented private interests in the financial, defense and education sectors.

The group’s report, “Bankrollers: Lobbyists’ Payments to the Lawmakers They Court, 1998-2006,” ranks the top-contributing lobbyists and those lawmakers receiving the most campaign cash.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, received the most individual and political action committee (PAC) contributions in the Senate, totaling $1,687,721 since 1998.

The other top five Senate recipients are Pennsylvania Republican Sens. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter; Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat; and Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican.

Outgoing Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay was the top recipient in the House with $1,322,906 in lobbyist contributions over the same time period.

The rest of the House top five are House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican; Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat; Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican; and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

Public Citizen’s research director Taylor Lincoln said the report demonstrates “just how small the number of lobbyists are who are responsible for the largest contributions.”

Despite the lobbying scandals currently affecting Congress, large amounts of lobbyist contributions continue to flow into members’ campaign war chests.

Mr. Santorum and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, are the leading Senate recipients of lobbyist dollars so far in the 2006 cycle, taking in $560,738 and $417,575, respectively.

Despite losing his leadership position and publicly announcing his intentions to leave Congress, Mr. DeLay is still the leading recipient of House lobbyist funds this cycle, taking in $387,239. Mr. Murtha leads the Democrats and is ranked fifth overall, with $207,550.

Despite receiving a substantial amount of press attention surrounding his criminal trial, disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff only ranks 30th on Public Citizen’s list of top-donating lobbyists.

The top-contributing lobbyist over the 1998-2006 time period is H. Stewart Van Scoyoc, with $339,132 in contributions. Mr. Van Scoyoc made 74.3 percent of his contributions to Republicans.

The largest Democratic contributor is Michael Berman, who ranks third overall with $297,961. One hundred percent of Mr. Berman’s contributions went to Democrats, according to Public Citizen.

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