One is a longtime Philadelphia congressman who quit in 2002. Another worked for U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, the city Democratic leader. A third was a powerful state senator from Delaware County until he went to federal prison.

Yet years after they left their public jobs, all remain on the taxpayers' tab - as private lobbyists, paid to promote Philadelphia's interests in Washington and Harrisburg. It's a common arrangement for cities, but one that troubles some watchdogs.

"They already have taxpayer-funded lobbyists," said Barry Kauffman, head of the good-government group Common Cause's state chapter. "Your main lobbyist should be your elected representatives."

For Philadelphians, that's three congressmen, two U.S. senators, and 33 state legislators.

Still, an Inquirer review of city records found that Philadelphia taxpayers paid private lobbyists $482,924 last year - nearly enough pay for three members of Congress.

And despite already working for City Hall, some of the same firms also collected additional amounts from public entities such as Visit Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC). Even City Council hired its own firm, for $30,000 a year.

The costs to taxpayers come to light as Mayor Kenney prepares to hire his administration's own set of lobbyists. He said they provide expertise as the city fights for support in the state and national capitals, often competing for grants or other aid from a limited pie.

"There are a myriad of agencies that the elected officials don't deal with - whether it is Department of Human Services, Transportation, Homeland Security, other type of agencies we have to interact with - that I can't expect a congressman or U.S. senator to have their staffs negotiating issues with," Kenney said in an interview.

For a city almost exclusively represented by Democrats, a firm with Republican ties could help with the GOP-led state legislature, he argued.

Lobbying disclosure reports, though, are murky, leaving it unclear what the city gets for its money.

What work was done?

Consider Gray Global Advisors. The late, barrier-breaking U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III founded the firm after he left office. In 2011, a decade after his congressional career ended, he landed a city lobbying contract.

Gray's son, Justin, now leads the firm and collected $100,000 in lobbying fees from Philadelphia last fiscal year, city records show.

For what?

Each of Gray Global's disclosures showing work for the city - 15 in all since 2011 - give the same seven-word description: "Issues related to infrastructure and economic development."

Another quarterly report in 2013 described no lobbying activity - just a $50,000 payment.

Justin Gray did not return Inquirer calls seeking further information.

Other contracts raise questions of overlap.

The city's top-paid lobbying firm last year, the Kinser Group, led by Holly Kinser, makes $120,000 a year championing Philadelphia interests in Harrisburg.

She also had a second contract, managed by PIDC but paid by the city, to support Philadelphia's economic development initiatives and its fight to keep a second gaming license.

The second contract paid her $144,000 annually from 2012 to 2015 - even though PIDC has its own $90,000-a-year lobbyist, Aaron Cohen.

Kinser, who has a reputation for wrangling meetings with key Harrisburg players, said PIDC needed "another set of eyes and ears" on those issues.

She disputed the argument that Philadelphia's delegation already acts as the city's lobbyists.

"They may not share the same priorities as the mayor," she said. "Almost anything Harrisburg does impacts the city in some way. . . . You need to have a pretty aggressive presence."

PIDC president John Grady said giving Kinser a second contract was the Nutter administration's decision. The city ultimately got what it wanted - it retained a second gaming license.

Former Mayor Michael Nutter said he wanted the casino and economic development issues handled separately because they were complicated, and called the city's lobbying fees "money well-spent."

Even so, lobbyists and lawmakers take credit for achievements that seem to be sure things.

Two firms last year reported lobbying for federal aid for security costs of the upcoming Democratic National Convention here. The city ultimately received $50 million - the same amount granted to every national political convention site since Sept. 11, 2001.

Cities across the country have long paid Washington lobbyists to add muscle and expertise as they scramble for public dollars, navigate a vast bureaucracy, or seek to influence complex legislation, said Craig Holman, of Public Citizen, a Washington-based watchdog group.

Philadelphia in recent years has actually spent less on Capitol Hill lobbyists than similarly sized cities such as Phoenix; San Antonio, Texas; and Dallas, though more than San Diego, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Its lobbyists reported pushing the city's interests on vast transportation and railroad bills, legislation affecting airports, and other topics.

Two people paid to work on some of those issues are Bob Borski, a former Democratic congressman from the city who decided in 2002 not to run again, and his colleague, Mark Trumbore, an ex-aide to Brady and to U.S. Rep. Paul McHale (D, Pa.). Borski & Associates have been paid $848,321 since 2004, city records show.

"I see this as an extension of my work in Congress," said Borski, noting that he works on local issues, not representing big corporations. "When the mayor has an agenda, we can bring that agenda to Congress."

He said his firm offers expertise on transportation, delivers inside information to City Hall, and relays to lawmakers what issues need attention or letters need writing.

Asked why city staffers can't do that, he said some cities do use that method.

Borski's clients last year also included PIDC, the Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority.

Joe Loeper, lobbyist

Few ex-lawmakers have returned to Harrisburg as lobbyists with more success than F. Joseph Loeper.

As state Senate majority leader, Loeper, an Upper Darby Republican, was respected on both sides of the aisle. But his tenure ended when he pleaded guilty to obstructing a tax investigation, and served six months in prison in 2001.

He created a lobbying firm the next year, and Mayor John F. Street's administration hired it almost immediately. In 13 years, the city has paid Loeper's firm $841,166 to work Harrisburg.

"If you commit a crime against the integrity of government, why would you want that person representing your city?" asked Kauffman, of Common Cause.

Nutter said Loeper had "paid his debt to society."

"He has tremendous relationships," Nutter said, and was "very, very effective" representing Philadelphia.

Loeper pointed to sales-tax legislation, pension law changes, and the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) as some of his accomplishments for the city.

Kinser similarly claimed credit for pushing the AVI legislation, the sales-tax extension, the cigarette tax, and other laws that helped the city.

On Thursday, Philadelphia sent its latest check to her firm: $90,000 for her work.

Editor's Note: This story was revised to correct the amount PIDC lobbyist Aaron Cohen is paid. It is $90,000, not $234,000.