Last year, four of the country’s biggest military contractors paid $100,000 or more to become top sponsors of a black tie charity gala that honored the influential former chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo.
In exchange for that gift, some of the company's top executives were placed at Skelton's table and all were given the chance to address the V.I.P. crowd that included many top military officials. The event benefited a charity for families of fallen soldiers.
This kind of lavish corporate spending on galas bestowing awards on executive or legislative officials is common practice in Washington, D.C., and unlike other forms of giving—such as donations from companies’ political action committees—it is unlimited. But the donations are supposed to be reported if they come from lobbyists or their clients.
In all, lobbying entities—including lobbying firms and their clients—reported spending $50.2 millionon so-called honorary and meetings fees over 2009 and 2010, according to a Sunlight Foundation analysis.