USA TODAY analyzed reports that lobbyists file twice a year with the U.S. Senate Office of Public Records. The reports disclose donations made to groups associated with members of Congress, top congressional aides and high-ranking executive branch officers or payments made for events held in their honor.
The payments went to a wide range of groups and events — from lunches and dinners where members of Congress spoke or were honored with awards to a $1.2 million gift to the Discovery Channel's Global Education Partnership by Chevron, disclosed because Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., is on its board.
The analysis examined more than 3,600 payments reported for 2008, the first year that lobbyists were required to disclose the contributions, known as honorary expenses. The payments were winnowed down to a total of 2,759 after removing entries that were misreported or duplicates.
When lobbyists reported a single payment in honor of multiple officials, the value was divided equally among all the honorees for the purposes of this analysis. A few payments could not be allocated because lobbyists did not report enough detail about the honoree.
By Fredreka Schouten and Paul Overberg