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By Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Despite the sharp economic downturn, lobbying spending in the nation's capital surged past $3 billion last year as industries and special-interest groups wooed Congress and federal agencies on a host of issues, including taxpayer bailouts for financial companies and automakers.
The record $3.3 billion lobbying price tag is up from $2.9 billion in 2007 and is more than double what was spent four years ago, according to records compiled by the non-partisan CQ MoneyLine.
"It's an arms race," said Massie Ritsch of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. "If your competitors are spending money on professional advocacy to play offense and defense in Washington, you feel you need to do the same."
Lobbying could soar to higher levels this year, he said, as Congress and President Obama hash out a $825 billion stimulus package that seeks to jump-start the economy with tax cuts and spending.