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PolitiFact: Obama adviser's financial lobbying claim mostly true

The statement

On financial reform, there is "a million dollars being spent, per congressman, in lobbying expenses on this issue. (The) industry has four lobbyists per member of the House and Senate working on this."

Lawrence Summers, an adviser to President Barack Obama, on Sunday in an interview on This Week.

The ruling

The Obama administration is pushing financial sector regulations. Lawrence Summers, one of the president's advisers, said they are meeting strong resistance. "You've got a million dollars being spent, per congressman, in lobbying expenses on this issue. (The) industry has four lobbyists per member of the House and Senate working on this," he said on ABC News' This Week.

We wanted to check his claims about the level of lobbying, so we turned to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics.

The most current disclosure documents for campaign finance and lobbying cover the year 2009. The center analyzed spending on lobbyists by sector, with finance, insurance and real estate grouped into one category. For 2009, that sector's spending totaled just over $455 million.

There are 435 members of U.S. House of Representatives, so that is more than $1 million per member. Senators are also technically members of Congress, but Summers said "congressmen," which typically means House members.

He also said that the industry has four lobbyists per member of the House and Senate. The finance, insurance and real estate sector employed 2,597 lobbyists in 2009, according to the center. Add 100 senators to the 435 House members and you get 535; that's 4.85 lobbyists for every member of Congress.

Now, the insurance category includes health insurers, whose lobbying was most likely focused on health care, but other types of insurers would be interested in financial reform, because that legislation affects them.

Also, the financial sector lobbies on issues that are not strictly related to financial regulations. Still, there's reason to think that the center's numbers come pretty close to the mark, said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.

The financial sector may not have spent all $455 million on financial regulation, and some of its 2,597 lobbyists may not have worked on that topic. But it's clearly one of their top issues. Based on public records, we rate Summers' claims Mostly True.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version — and to read other rulings — go to

PolitiFact: Obama adviser's financial lobbying claim mostly true 04/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 8:27pm]
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