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Berkshire units spent more than $2M on 2Q lobbying

Josh Funk

Some of Berkshire Hathaway's biggest subsidiaries continue to spend substantial amounts of money to influence the federal government, even though their parent company run by Warren Buffett doesn't report any lobbying.

Reports filed with the federal government show that Berkshire's biggest subsidiaries spent more than $2 million on lobbying between April and the end of June.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad that Berkshire acquired last year spent $1.8 million during the second quarter to lobby Congress on a variety of issues, including tax credits, railroad antitrust rules, greenhouse gas regulations and highway weight limits.

BNSF's lobbying spending is up from the $1.6 million it spent in last year's second quarter and the $1.5 million it spent during the first three months of 2011.

MidAmerican Energy, which includes Berkshire's utility and pipeline companies, spent $308,408 to lobby federal officials during the second quarter. That's down from the $358,450 it spent on lobbying in the first quarter of 2011 and the $778,418 the Des Moines, Iowa-based company spent in last year's second quarter.

MidAmerican reported trying to influence a number of proposals related to its main businesses, including greenhouse gas, light bulb and natural gas pipeline rules.

But MidAmerican also lobbied on financial trading-rules, Wall Street reforms and Federal Aviation Administration rules along with other issues that appear likely to be of more interest to other Berkshire subsidiaries than to MidAmerican itself.

Berkshire's fractional jet ownership company, NetJets, spent $30,000 in the second quarter to lobby Congress about the manner in which private jets should be taxes. That's down from $50,000 in the first quarter, and down from the $110,000 NetJets spent a year ago in the second quarter.

Berkshire's major insurance companies, which include auto insurance giant Geico and reinsurer General Re, didn't report any lobbying expenses during the quarter.

A federal law enacted in 1995 requires lobbyists to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches. The Berkshire subsidiaries filed their quarterly lobbying reports with the House clerk's office on July 20.

Omaha-based Berkshire owns roughly 80 subsidiaries, including clothing, furniture and jewelry firms, but its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company's net income. It also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.

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Online:

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.: http://www.berkshirehathaway.com

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad: http://www.bnsf.com

MidAmerican Energy: http://www.midamerican.com

The Associated Press