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Companies Pour on the Lobbyists to Block Financial Reform

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The financial services industry spent a whopping $117 million to lobby Congress and the federal government in the first three months of 2011, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics. A major focus of all that lobbying pressure was to delay, change or repeal various parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which Congress passed last summer.

“A lot of people think the lobbying stops once a bill goes into law, but that is definitely not the case with Dodd-Frank,” says Michael Beckel, spokesman for the center. “There’s a lot of deep-pocketed interests that are trying to slow down or thwart or repeal completely the regulations that were passed last year.”

That total includes all industries of the financial and consumer credit sector, including $9 million from credit companies, $14 million from real estate, $16 million from commercial banks, $25 million from securities and investment houses, and $40 million from insurance companies, the center found.

Lobbyists don’t have to write on their disclosure forms what exactly they’re lobbying about. But the fact that Dodd-Frank remains a major focus is seen in the large shift that’s taken place recently. When Dodd-Frank was still being debated in Congress, most of the $480 million that financial services companies and their trade associations spent on lobbying efforts was directed at wooing members of Congress.

But Dodd-Frank left sweeping sections of new financial rules to be determined by regulatory agencies. Which is why so far this year, lobbying efforts have shifted dramatically from Congress to the federal bureaucracy.

More lobbyists met with leaders of the Federal Reserve and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission in the first quarter of 2011 than in all of 2010, the center found.

“The regulatory agencies tasked with implementing the reforms—the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the Commodities Futures Commission, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the SEC—all of these agencies are at pretty historic levels of being targeted by lobbyists,” Beckel says.

Meanwhile, organizations that support the reforms are several orders of magnitude smaller in terms of their lobbying heft. The Center for Responsible Lending spent $96,000 on lobbying in the first quarter. The Consumer Federation of America spent $10,000.

“The consumer groups that are pushing for these regulations are really outgunned in this fight,” says Beckel.

Image: Karan J, via Flickr.com

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