Monday, June 08, 2015

Lobbyists turning attention to state legislators, especially ones representing smaller districts

Lobbyists have been increasingly focusing on local politicians, especially those from smaller districts, Reid Wilson reports for The Washington Post. "A Washington Post review of lobbying spending in states shows professional advocates reported spending at least $2.2 billion on activity aimed at influencing state legislators in 28 states where data was available during the 2013-2014 biennium—with virtually every state seeing dramatic growth over the last decade."

Total spending on federal lobbying activities has fallen from $3.52 billion in 2010 to $3.24 billion in 2014, says the Center for Responsive Politics, Wilson writes. Frank McNulty, a former Republican speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives who retired from office earlier this year, told Wilson, “When nothing’s happening in Washington, D.C., it’s happening in the states. You tend to see all these public policy issues work their way down to the state level because, whether it’s an environmental organization or a Fortune 500 company, they’re still going to try to move their agenda.”

While numbers are not available in every state, "lobbying spending has more than doubled over the last ten years in North Carolina, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arizona and Ohio," Wilson writes. "Spending in at least six states—Florida, Minnesota and Washington, New Jersey, New York and California—topped $100 million between 2013 and 2014. Lobbying spending topped $50 million in Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado and Maryland over the same period." (Post graphic)
"The spending totals also don’t include an explosion in spending by outside groups on legislative elections," Wilson writes. "Lobbyists and watchdogs say a confluence of events are to blame—or credit—with the industry’s growth: the recent gridlock in Washington comes at the same time states are deciding on a host of contentious issues, from energy regulation to health care and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Decisions on those issues, which are in the hands of state lawmakers, stand to make one industry a lot of money, at the expense of others."

"At the same time, term limit laws in a number of states have forced an unprecedented amount of turnover in recent years, spreading legislative power and forcing lobbyists to get to know, and influence, new faces," Wilson writes. "Big Republican gains in the 2010 and 2014 elections contributed to the turnover."

All the spending is not sitting well with watchdog groups, who "say state ethics laws have not kept up to date with the explosion in new spending," Wilson writes. "While most states make lobbying activity reports available online, some do not, and even some that do are not listed by subject area or sponsor. For practical purposes, that means citizens in many states would not be able to find just who is lobbying in support of or opposition to any given measure without combing through thousands of records. And even the agencies themselves are often reluctant, unwilling or not empowered to take action against lobbyists who run afoul of state rules." (Read more)

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