updated 6/1/2004 5:12:07 PM ET 2004-06-01T21:12:07

Lobbying hit an all-time high in Washington last year, reaching nearly $2 billion after intensive efforts to change lawmakers’ minds on Medicare prescription drug coverage and other high-stakes issues, a review released Tuesday shows.

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Special interests spent slightly more than $1 billion from July through December, the first time Washington lobbying costs reached the billion-dollar mark in a six-month period, according to the study by the nonpartisan Political Money Line campaign finance and lobbying tracking service.

Lobbying on health-care issues accounted for the single-biggest share of the 2003 spending: about $297 million. Finance and insurance lobbying was next, with at least $259 million in spending, followed by lobbying on communications and technology issues, about $248 million.

AARP was the highest spender in the last half of the year, devoting roughly $16 million to lobbying for Medicare prescription drug coverage and on other issues. In all, the senior-citizen lobby spent nearly $21 million pressing its views in Washington last year.

Other top lobbying spenders last year included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, about $18 million; the American Medical Association, roughly $17 million; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $16.5 million; and Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, about $16 million.

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