Financial Lobbying Costs Increase as Bank Bill Takes Effect

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The largest U.S. banks, including Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., boosted their spending on lobbying in 2011’s first quarter as the Obama administration began writing regulations required by the new financial services law and congressional Republicans moved to repeal or amend it.

The 10 biggest U.S. banks by assets spent more than $11 million on lobbying from January through March, up from the $10.3 million during the same period a year ago, when Congress was debating the most extensive federal banking regulations since the Great Depression. The measure passed in July.

The U.S. government is drafting rules to comply with the law’s provisions, while House Republicans try to change some of the regulations and Senate Republicans push for repealing them.

“The banks see an opportunity to weaken reform and they’re pulling out all the stops,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the Boston-based U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which supports stronger banking regulations.

Wells Fargo spent $1.9 million on first-quarter lobbying this year, up from $1 million last year. JPMorgan increased its spending to $1.8 million from $1.5 million. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. spent $1.3 million, compared with $1.2 million a year earlier.

Richele Messick, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Wells Fargo; Stephen Cohen, a spokesman for New York-based Goldman Sachs; and Howard Opinsky, a spokesman for New York-based JPMorgan, all declined to comment.

Health Industry

In contrast to the financial industry, lobbying by health-related industries declined after Obama signed legislation overhauling health care, extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. House Republicans voted earlier this year to repeal the law. The Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to act on that effort.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Washington-based trade group for drug companies such as New York-based Pfizer Inc., spent $4.5 million in the first three months of 2011, down from $7 million during the same period in 2010.

“We continue to focus our efforts on public policies that improve patient care and access to medicines, foster medical innovation and protect U.S.-based biopharmaceutical jobs,” said Jennifer Wall, a spokeswoman for the group.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Washington-based trade group for health insurers such as Indianapolis-based Wellpoint Inc., reported spending $2.3 million in first-quarter lobbying expenses, down from $2.7 million last year.

“We continue to focus on reaching out to policymakers about how to minimize coverage disruptions and cost increases as the new law is implemented, while also advancing policies that improve the quality, safety, and affordability of patient care,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the group.

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