Timothy P. Carney: Numbers show Obama favors lobbyists 

"Our special-interest opponents and their Republican allies," President Obama warned in a fundraising e-mail this week, "have now set their sights on the elections in November as their best chance to overturn the historic progress we've made together."

This is Obama's standard line. It is the Democrats' line for 2010.

It's also utterly false.

New filings by lobbying firms and big businesses show that the most entrenched special interests -- the companies and industries that spend the most on lobbying -- are Obama's allies, both in the policies they favor and the politicians they finance.

General Electric once again spent more money on lobbying than any other company -- $8.3 million last quarter (Pacific Gas & Electric reported $18.2 million in quarterly spending, but almost all of that was dedicated to opposing a state-level ballot measure in California). GE is also one of the two companies, together with Google, that is most in sync with the Obama administration.

Just after Obama's inauguration, GE CEO Jeff Immelt wrote that "the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner." Immelt told shareholders, "GE's broad technical portfolio positions us as a natural partner as the role of government increases in the current crisis."

True to his word, Immelt has positioned GE to benefit from all sorts of Obama initiatives -- and of course, GE's league-leading lobbying squad has worked Capitol Hill to support and craft these initiatives. GE has supported and stands to profit from stimulus, climate legislation, federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, rail subsidies, battery subsidies, solar subsidies, wind subsidies, and more.

GE's lobbyists include three former senators -- John Breaux, D-La., Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Don Nickles, R-Okla. -- plus Linda Daschle, wife of Obama confidant and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. Also, former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and former Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., are part of GE's lobbying army.

This company is, by any definition, a leading special interest, and it's on Obama's side in both lobbying and campaign contributions. GE's political action committee has favored Democratic candidates by a two-to-one margin.

The rest of the new lobbying data also undermines Obama's claim to battle the special interests. The top three trade lobbies -- lobbying groups that represent single industries -- are all health-sector lobbies that vocally and repeatedly supported Obama's health care overhaul.

The American Medical Association was first among single-industry lobbies last quarter, followed by the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the American Hospital Association.

Not only did these groups help push Obamacare across the finish line, they have also rallied behind Obama's controversial Medicare chief Donald Berwick. PhRMA has run campaign ads supporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the group's new president was an Obama donor.

And that nasty oil industry? The top two Big Oil lobbying spenders last quarter were ConocoPhillips and Shell.

Both companies have actively supported the Senate climate bill. Conoco's CEO told the Financial Times in March, "We like the idea of cap-and-trade for large stationary sources, with a linked fee." According to the Washington Post, BP also was ready to endorse the Senate bill, until its oil spill made an endorsement counterproductive.

AARP was the leading nonprofit lobbying spender in May, June, and July, shelling out $4.25 million. AARP, whose CEO Barry Rand gave the maximum legal contribution to Obama, was a key Obama partner in the health care fight.

Now, Obama's allies could point out that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- by far the largest lobbying spender -- has generally been antagonistic toward Obama, opposing his pushes on health care, climate and Wall Street. But the Chamber differs from GE, PhRMA and Conoco in an important way: It is a broad-based lobby representing the entire business community.

The term "special interest" is not quite an apt one for the Chamber.

But coming from Obama, "special interest" is really just a meaningless slur to hurl at his opponents. Actual facts may undermine his crusading rhetoric, but that doesn't seem to matter to the president.

Timothy P. Carney is The Washington Examiner's Lobbying Editor. His K Street column appears on Wednesdays.

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