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K Street woes: Spending, lobbyists hit multiyear lows

K Street has seen better days.

Last year, total lobbying spending dropped to the lowest level since 2007, before President Barack Obama took office, falling 3 percent to $3.21 billion, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsible Politics.

Meanwhile, the number of lobbyists shrank to the smallest number since 2002, dropping 1.2 percent to 12,281, it said.

Doug Plummer | Getty Images

The top issue, by number of clients, remained the federal budget and appropriations, a position it's held since the group began keeping track in 1998. Despite Obamacare, health issues lost its second-place position for the first time since 2008 to tax issues.

Of the more than 90 industries that the group tracks, 43 percent increased their spending.

Gun lobbying surged during the period as the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre brought the issue more sharply into the public eye. Interests favoring more control spent 824 percent more in 2013, totaling $2.2 million. Meanwhile, gun rights interests boosted spending by a smaller percentage—147 percent—but the total amount of $15.1 million dwarfed the control spending.

Liberal, Democratic and abortion rights groups also significantly increased spending.

Business associations saw the biggest cuts in spending—with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce slashing its spending by more than $60 million in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential campaign. Electric companies, including Southern, Entergy, Duke Energy and Exelon, also cut their lobbying spending.

At $74.5 million, the Chamber of Commerce was the top spender. The rest of the Top 5 overall spenders: the National Association of Realtors ($38.6 million), Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($22.5 million), Northrop Grumman ($20.6 million) and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association ($19.9 million).

The top five companies were Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Northrop Grumman, Comcast ($18.8 million), General Electric ($18.1 million) and AT&T ($15.9 million). (Comcast is the owner NBC Universal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.)

(Watch: How Obama's speech tied people to government)

—By CNBC's Katie Little. Follow her on Twitter @KatieLittle

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