GE, Seeking New Engine and NBC Deal, Was Top Spender

General Electric Co. spent more on government lobbying than any other company in 2010 as it continued to fight for funding for an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and sought federal approval to merge its NBC Universal subsidiary with Comcast Corp.

Lobbying expenses for Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE totaled $39.3 million last year, up 49 percent from 2009, when the company spent $26.4 million, filings show.

“We are a diverse company with broad interests,” said Helaine Klasky, a spokeswoman for GE, when asked to comment on the spending.

President Barack Obama visited a GE plant in Schenectady, New York, today. The company’s chief executive officer, Jeffrey Immelt, has been chosen by Obama to replace former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker as head of the administration’s outside panel of economic advisers.

GE is urging Congress to fund an alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. The primary engine is built by United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit, and the U.S. Defense Department has said that a second engine, built by GE and Rolls- Royce Group Plc, isn’t needed. Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said today that the president continues to oppose funding for the engine.

Merger Approved

NBC Universal’s merger with Philadelphia-based Comcast was approved earlier this month by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Justice Department. Under the deal, Comcast will own 51 percent of a joint venture. GE acquired the NBC network in 1986 when it bought RCA Corp.

GE is the world’s biggest provider of jet engines, power- plant turbines, medical imaging machines and locomotives. It also provides financial services.

Businesses and groups that lobby the federal government are required to file quarterly reports with the House and the Senate.

Ranking second in lobbying expenditures among companies last year was FedEx Corp., which spent $25.6 million. That was up 56 percent from the $16.4 million spent by the Memphis, Tennessee-based company in 2009.

FedEx opposes legislation pushed by some Democratic lawmakers that would make it easier for its workers to unionize. The measure stalled in Congress during the 2009-10 session.

“FedEx has long recognized the importance of playing an active role in the political process,” said Maury Lane, a FedEx spokesman. He said most of the spending was spent on an educational campaign against the legislation.

UPS Expenditures

United Parcel Service Inc., a FedEx rival that supports the legislation, spent $5.6 million on lobbying in 2010. That was down 33 percent from the $8.4 million Atlanta-based UPS spent in 2009.

UPS has said that the unionization proposal, which also is backed by the Teamsters, would even the playing field with UPS’s workforce. UPS is the biggest employer of Teamsters, with about 240,000 workers. The Teamsters have been trying to organize FedEx ground workers for years.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. lobby group for business interests, and its legal reform affiliate spent $131.5 million in lobbying last year, more than any other entity. The Chamber spent $144.2 million in 2009, the highest yearly lobbying expense ever reported.

The chamber unsuccessfully fought Obama-backed legislation that overhauled the U.S. health-care system, in part by expanding coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. The chamber also opposed new regulations for the financial industry that were enacted following the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression.

Supports Health-Care Repeal

Chamber President Tom Donohue has backed the push to repeal the health-care measure, an effort that passed the Republican- led House on Jan. 19. Democrats who control the Senate say they will block the measure in that chamber.

Donohue said the chamber also would work to “create a more modern, coherent regulatory structure with more effective regulators” to oversee the financial industry.

Seven of the 10 largest U.S. banks by assets increased their lobbying efforts as Congress debated the regulation measure. New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc. spent $4.6 million, up 64 percent from $2.8 million in 2009, while New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. spent $7.4 million in 2010, up 19 percent from $6.2 million a year earlier.

Melissa Daly, a spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, and Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan, declined to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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