Lobbyists for special interests with business before Congress donated more than $50 million to charities and non-profits that have connections to lawmakers and the executive branch from 2009 through 2010. The recipients included organizations that honored members, President Barack Obama, cabinet secretaries and others with gala events or have members on their boards of directors or covered meeting expenses for events that lawmakers attended. Until 2008, this kind of backdoor influence was all but untraceable. That year, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act required registered lobbyists and lobbying firms to report their giving to everything from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the top recipient of funds, to the Arab American National Museum, to which lobbyists for Chevron contributed to honor Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
Keenan Steiner looks these gift horses in the mouth, and finds executives for defense contractors assigned to sit at the same table as Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., then head of the House Armed Services Committee, or Coca-Cola footing part of the bill for a congressional prayer breakfast, or Pfizer getting 10 tickets to an event featuring Sens. Robert Casey, D-Pa., and Richard Burr, R-N.C. for a cool $20,000. Chevron disclosed giving the most–some $2.9 million, followed by Wal-Mart, which contributed $2.2 million. Lobbyists disclosed donating $1.8 million to events that honored Obama; among active lawmakers, they gave to groups honoring Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., the most, disclosing more than $1.4 million in payments.
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The next round of disclosures, covering the first six months of 2012, will be available on July 30th.