Lobbying is a billion-dollar-a-year industry in Washington, D.C., where companies and advocacy groups try to bend lawmakers' ears and make members sympathetic to their causes. Lobbying can inform members of Congress and bring problems to their attention, but it has also often been attacked as only representing special interests in D.C., and a pay-to-play culture.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America's chief business lobby, spent $40 million on lobbying in the last three months of 2012, according to the disclosure report it filed with Congress.
The advocacy group disclosed on House of Representative lobbying forms that it spent $40.42 million hiring and paying lobbyists, advertising, and other costs seeking to influence Washington, during the fourth quarter of 2012. That joins $40.1 million it spent during the third quarter, making the group the largest lobbyers in the U.S.
The Chamber of Commerce spent four times as much as the next highest lobbyist - the National Association of Realtors - who spent just under $10 million during the third quarter. And aerospace company Northrop Grumman came in third with $4.2 million.
Kent Cooper, the director of CQ Roll Call's Political Money Line, said that $40 million buys a lot of lobbying power.
"The Chamber is spending an average of $450,000 a day to lobby the legislative and executive branches of government," he said. "That's a strong voice in Washington, and one that can easily drown out the voices of others who want to be heard. In the limited time a legislator has to hear from constituents, it requires a skilled legislator to find the proper balance."
The Chamber of Commerce did not return calls seeking comment.
The US Chamber of Commerce is an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., that represents private businesses and lobbies on their behalf. The group says it lobbies for policies that will strengthen the U.S. economy, which often include deregulation of businesses.