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Lobbyists can spend unlimited amounts to honor lawmakers

A USA Today analysis shows lobbyists paid $35.8 million in 2008 to honor 534 current and former lawmakers, almost 250 other federal officials and more than 100 groups, many of which count lawmakers among their members. "Despite a ban on gifts to lawmakers and limits on campaign contributions, lobbyists and groups that employ them can spend unlimited money to honor members of Congress or donate to non-profits connected to them or their relatives," Fredreka Schouten and Paul Overberg report. The top honoree: Sen. Edward Kennedy, with $5 million. 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.

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