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Benghazi debate sparks little formal lobbying

Few organizations hiring pros to press Congress on highly politicized issue

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Benghazi is a non-starter for professional lobbyists.

Despite this week's politicized fray on Capitol Hill, just two organizations have specifically lobbied the federal government about the Libyan city in the months after terrorists there killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, according to disclosure documents filed with the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Of late, the families of people killed in Libya-related terrorist attacks from the 1980s brought to bear more formalized lobbying pressure, federal records indicate.

Among lobbying groups focused on Benghazi, ACT! for America spent $60,000 from October through March lobbying Congress on a variety of issues that include support for "legislation establishing a select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya," congressional disclosures show.

Republicans in particular have loudly criticized the Obama administration — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, specifically — for what they consider failures to adequately protect the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. They've also accusing Democrats of hiding details about the incident. State Department official Gregory Hicks joined in the chorus of criticism while under oath before a House committee investigating the matter.

But this outrage has failed to materialize into a more formal lobbying effort, in which organizations and special interests invest big dollars to advocate for a specific action or result.

"It's surprising, but even more than that, it's disturbing," said Guy Rodgers, ACT! for America's executive director, when informed his group is all but alone in terms of formally lobbying the federal government on Benghazi-related issues.

Rodgers cites "a failure by the establishment press" to properly report on the aftermath of the killings as a major reason why more lobbies haven't pressured lawmakers through formal lobbying channels on Benghazi-related matters.

"If you're an organization, or a lobbyist paid to do things, you're looking at what people are paying attention to," Rodgers said. "The establishment press needs to start being a watchdog, not a lapdog."

ACT! for America describes itself as a "nonpartisan, non-sectarian organization whose mission is to give Americans concerned about national security, terrorism and the threat of radical Islam, a powerful, organized, informed and mobilized voice."

Virginia-based security company Triple Canopy, Inc., also noted lobbying on Benghazi among several other issues in a report covering July through September of last year when it spent $129,000 overall on federal-level lobbying.

While the firm's filing doesn't indicate whether its efforts pertained to the Benghazi attack, the company confirmed in a statement to the Center for Public Integrity that its lobbying was attack-related.

"Following last year’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, Triple Canopy took the initiative to suggest a series of security solutions to protect U.S. diplomats and others who serve overseas," the statement said, offering no details on what its suggestions involved.

Since Sept. 11, 2012, when the Benghazi attack took place, about a dozen companies and organizations have reported lobbying lawmakers and federal agencies about Libya in general, congressional disclosures show.

None their efforts, however, appear related to the events in Benghazi.

Marathon Oil, for example, lobbied the government on petroleum issues in Libya. The National Foreign Trade Council lobbied on U.S.-Libya relations. And Halliburton pressed the government on Libyan trade issues.