Record $3.5 billion spent on lobbying in 2009 and Google expands ad targeting methods

Lobbying appears to be recession-proof, according to a report out by the Center for Responsive Politics today.

Companies and interest groups spent a record $3.47 billion on federal lobbying in 2009, a 5% increase over the year before, according to the watchdog group, which tracks money in U.S. politics at its site OpenSecrets.org.

That’s surprising, said spokesman Dave Levinthal, since those results come during a year when the recession persisted, the dollar declined and unemployment soared.

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Most people would think that when the economy was as utterly rotten as it was in 2009 that companies might be scaling back their efforts in influencing the federal government, he said. [Read the full article]

Google is now offering more relevant ads to users who view sites on its AdSense network, the company announced in a blog post Thursday.

AdSense is a network of Web sites on which Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) delivers ads. It uses ;referral URLs, or information that shows how users arrive at a site, in order to target which ads appear.

For example, a user searching for baseball glove might click on a baseball news blog in the search results. The words baseball glove used in the original query would appear in the referral URL passed on to the blog’s site.

AdSense treats the query words in the referral URL as part of the content on the Web page and uses the overall content to figure out which are the most relevant ads. It doesn’t matter where the search originated — the query could have come from Microsoft’s (MSFT, Fortune 500) Bing, Yahoo! (YHOO, Fortune 500) or another search engine. [Read the full article]

States are looking to the federal government for more help balancing their budgets, but the Senate is not heeding their call.

Federal aid to the states was among the top priorities in an early Senate job creation bill, as well as in a $154 billion measure passed by the House in December. But it has fallen off the list as Senate Democrats look to craft legislation that will attract bipartisan support.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday unveiled a jobs bill that does not contain state aid. A Senate Democratic aide said Reid hopes to back a state aid measure in the future. Republican support, however, remains questionable.

Experts and state officials say they need to know now whether they’ll get more funds. Governors are currently crafting their budgets and, for many, it will be their third year of contending with massive deficits due to declining tax revenues. [Read the full article]

Toyota announced a voluntary safety recall of about 8,000 four-wheel Tacoma trucks in North America, citing potential production defects in the front-drive shaft of certain 2010 models.

The automaker said Friday that the front shaft in a small production run of pickups may include a component that developed cracks during the manufacturing process.

As the vehicles are used, the cracks could potentially lead to the separation of the drive shaft at the joint.

Toyota (TM) has assured car owners that the safety inspection and replacement will be performed at no cost.

On Tuesday, Toyota President Akio Toyoda issued an apology with the announcement of a global recall of more than 400,000 Hybrid models for 2010, including the widely popular Prius, because of braking problems.

Quality is our lifeline for Toyota, and the company will work to recover its customers’ trust, Toyoda said. [Read the full article]

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