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If you, like PaperTrail, try to keep tabs on the lobbyists roaming Capitol Hill, you were probably equally confused when, as of the January 21 filing deadline, the Congressional computer system showed a significant drop-off in the number of registered Washington lobbyists in the last quarter of the year.

A drop-off in lobbyists? Seems unlikely, and indeed it was. All those lobbyists are still out there. And they weren’t late in filing because they were too busy with inaugural festivities inconveniently slated the day before records were due, as PaperTrail initially suspected. Instead, says Pamela Gavin, superintendent of the Senate Office of Public Records, a glitch with the electronic filing server resulted in a temporary delay in getting about 5,000 of the lobbying records into the system.

This morning, she said, all of the fourth quarter 2008 lobbying records should be available online for perusal. Gavin said the total number of lobbying records filed for the last quarter was 18,163 — in line with the numbers from recent quarters. Phew.

If anything, Gavin said she’s seen even more filing activity by lobbyists in the last few weeks. “I think there has been so much buzz over the inaugural that the lobbying community, like every other community, behaved atypically this January,” Gavin said. “It might be said that Alan Greenspan’s term, ‘irrational exuberance,’ would apply.” But the numbers that would track whether new lobbyists indeed have swept in behind the new administration won’t be available until the next deadline for quarterly reports — barring computer glitches, that’s April 20. You know we’ll be watching.

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