North Carolina-based Bank of America was blasted this week for spending millions on a lavish Super Bowl party after receiving tens of billions of dollars in federal bailout funds. But according to a report released today, the banking giant spent even more playing politics in Washington last year.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Bank of America -- along with recent acquisition Merrill Lynch -- spent $14.5 million in 2008 on political contributions and lobbying.

As Facing South reported yesterday, BoA/Merrill has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of of taxpayer help: BoA and Merrill together have received $45 billion in federal infusions, $25 billion of which came through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) in which the government buys bank stock.

Among companies receiving TARP funds, Bank of America's investments in Washington politics last year were second only to General Motors, which totalled $15 million last year. BoA's individuals and PACs made more than $5.7 million in campaign contributions in the 2007-2008 election cycle -- the highest amount of any TARP recipients. 56% of BoA's contributions went to Democrats and 44% to Republicans.

As for lobbying, BoA/Merrill spent over $8.7 million to influence policy -- the third-highest of TARP beneficiaries.

As the Center notes, if one compares the amount BoA invested into the political process and the amount they ended up receiving, it amounts to a 309,335% return on investment:
"Even in the best economic times, you won't find an investment with a greater payoff than what these companies have been getting," said Sheila Krumholz, the Center's executive director. "Some of the companies and industries that have received payments may now consider their contributions and lobbying to be the smartest investments they've made in years."