Troubled bank industry continues California lobbying

Banks that received billions of dollars in federal bailout funds continue spending heavily to lobby in the state Capitol against increased regulation of their industry.

Players in the California financial industry spent $4.4 million lobbying state lawmakers in the first quarter of this year, just $500,000 less than the $4.9 million they spent in the first quarter of 2007, before the nation's financial meltdown.

Bank of America Corp., which has received $15 billion from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, has increased lobbying expenditures in California year over year, from about $24,000 in the first quarter of 2005 to about $80,000 in the first quarter of this year.

BofA representatives attribute the increase to the recent hiring of support counsel, and the company's greater presence and exposure to risk in California after the purchase of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch. The company is trying to cut costs, spokeswoman Shirley Norton said, but it's important to have a say in policy decisions at the Capitol.

"You want to have an opportunity to have your side heard," Norton said.

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