Lobbyists spent more than $1 billion in the first half of 2004 promoting their positions in front of the president and Congress, putting the nation on track for its first $2 billion lobbying year.

According to an analysis released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Political Money Line (search) campaign finance tracking service, $1.06 billion was spent between January and June on lobbying the executive branch and Congress.

That is an increase over the same time periods in 2003 ($963 million), 2002 ($859 million), 2001 ($791 million) and 2000 ($765 million).

The average spending per month was $176 million. Spending usually increases in the second half of the year, the group said.

If that pace held up between July and December, lobbyists will have spent more than $2 billion on lobbying for the first time. Lobbyist spending came to $1.9 billion in 2003, $1.7 billion in 2002, $1.5 billion in 2001 and $1.5 billion in 2000.

The topic lobbyists spent the most money on was health care (search), followed by communication and technology, the study said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (search) was the top spender at $20 million, followed by the chamber's Institute for Legal Reform at $10 million. In third place was the American Medical Association (search) at $9.2 million.

Figures for the last six months of 2004 will be reported in February.