It's a good time to be a lobbyist

A sign showing K Street in Washington,D.C.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: If there's one thing this economy is teaching us, it's that there's no such thing as a recession-proof job. Companies in all kinds of industries are laying people off. Pay and benefits are being cut. You might say, though, that some jobs are more recession-resistant than others. For Washington lobbyists, business is booming, thank you very much.

Ronni Radbill reports.


RONNI RADBILL: Washington lobbyists earned a whopping $3.2 billion last year. That's the highest amount in the decade tracked by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Executive Director Sheila Krumholz says interest groups spent $17.4 million on lobbying every day Congress was in session last year. And with Washington on a spending spree, companies are boosting their influence on Capitol Hill.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: There was this unique opportunity that government was handing out money and anytime that happens, companies will spend what they must to get in line to get a piece of the pie.

And that's expected to continue. Craig Holman is a governmental affairs lobbyist with the non-profit group Public Citizen.

CRAIG HOLMAN: The amount spent on lobbying is not related to the disclosure or the regulation of the lobbying profession. It is related entirely to how much the federal government intervenes in the private economy.

In other words, the more active the government, the more the private sector will spend to have its say. The Center for Responsive Politics finds oil and gas firms were the big spenders in 2008, hoping to have a hand in future energy policy while the automotive industry scaled back. And with a new administration, lobbyist Chuck Brain, president of Capitol Hill Strategies, says business is good.

CHUCK BRAIN: This point in any cycle, with the new president, the phone is ringing quite often.

And it's expected to keep ringing as new clients sign up with lobbying firms. With the White House injecting billions of dollars into the economy, lobbyists say interest groups are paying a lot more attention to Washington than they have in a very long time.

In Washington, I'm Ronni Radbill for Marketplace.

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