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DC lobbyists flocking to cybersecurity

Nearly 1,500 firms list issue; diversity of clients wows expert

Lobbying activity in Washington on issues relating to cybersecurity is increasing exponentially.

In 2001, only four firms listed cybersecurity as an issue on which they were lobbying, according to a Washington Post computer analysis of congressional lobbyists filings. By 2006, this had risen to 129 and in 2011, the last full year for which data are available, 1,489 companies listed cybersecurity in disclosure forms required by Congress.

The increase reflects the rapidly growing importance overall of cybersecurity to businesses and government. In particular, businesses are concerned about the potential cost of new regulations intended to better secure their computer networks.

For many lobbyists this has been a windfall during a difficult economic climate in which their overall spending is flat or falling.

How many millions of dollars are being spent cannot be gleaned from official filings, as firms are required to give total amounts spent on lobbying but not a breakdown on individual issues.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzes lobbying spending and campaign contributions, has also noted the rapid growth in cyber lobbying.

“The number of distinct entities that have been lobbying on cybersecurity issues has certainly jumped up,” said Sarah Bryner, a lobbying researcher at the center.

“The striking thing to me was just how diverse the companies who are interested in this issue are. You have defense contractors, communications and technologies, you have trade organizations – it touches so many different interests,” Bryner added.

Bryner suggested this was fueled in part by cybersecurity bills being considered in the Senate and House over the year.

The key House and Senate bills would involve information sharing between companies and government, a measure the White House has repeatedly said is vital to combat cybercrime.