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03.24.11

Top 20 Corporate Influencers

As AT&T pressures Washington to approve its T-Mobile purchase, The Daily Beast ranks which companies have the most money and troops engaged in Congressional lobbying efforts.

It’s been a busy first quarter for AT&T, and their biggest news yet may come to bust if they haven’t sufficiently bent the proper ears. First, in January, the battle for iPhone supremacy officially began when AT&T’s exclusive with Apple expired. Then, just two weeks ago, AT&T imposed a bandwidth limit for some Internet users, prompting some to mark the end of the open Internet age. And finally, on Monday, AT&T announced a $39 billion deal to gobble up T-Mobile and its 46.5 million customers.

Gallery: The 20 Companies That Lobby the Most

In a cellphone market with a dearth of major carriers, AT&T’s T-Mobile deal will have to get the go-ahead from federal regulators. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out on Tuesday, AT&T has anted up more than $46 million to legislators since 1989, the most of any private company, and more than $15 million in lobbying last year. AT&T is, undoubtedly, hoping to cash in on a rubber stamp for its latest deal, but is AT&T America’s most lobby-heavy public company?

To find out Capitol Hill’s coziest companies, The Daily Beast began by looking at the Fortune 100—the biggest, richest companies in America. We then did a simple ranking of the number of lobbyists on each company’s payroll in 2010, and their total lobbying expenditures for 2010, with data from the Center for Responsive Politics. AT&T lands in the top five, but one legendary American company outspent AT&T by more than a 2-to-1 margin. Click here to find out the company spending the most to bend legislators’ ears.

By Clark Merrefield and Lauren Streib