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Growth Industry for Lobbyists: You, the Taxpayer – Pacific Research Institute

Growth Industry for Lobbyists: You, the Taxpayer

Forget the stereotype of the lobbyists shilling for corporate welfare in the polished corridors of K Street. The biggest single market for the lobby industry is government itself, as state entities try to get (or keep) money and privileges flowing from legislatures.

The Pacific Research Institute (PRI) recently studied how states rank in their disclosure and accessibility laws on government-to-government lobbying. The study concluded that such “lobbying is by and large not held to the same disclosure and regulation standards as private-sector groups.” Unlike paid lobbyists for corporations, few states have strong regulations about lobbyist registration and disclosure. The study showed Connecticut required the most disclosure and New Hampshire the least.

The PRI estimates that in 2008, state and local governments spent more than $84 million lobbying the federal government. California spent almost $21 million, or 17% of all spending by lobbyists.

In the last year both Tennessee and Mississippi have had scandals related to their university systems hiring lobbyists to try and get more money out of the legislature. Both states have struggled to to make this lobbying more accountable. The concern is that the money spent to hire lobbyists is taking funding from the work of education.

One way a lobbyist may help a company, group or government is to get earmarks, which is when Congressmen and Senators write specific funding for a project or entity into a spending bill.

The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives have moved to ban earmarks given to for-profit organizations. This still allows non-profits like universities and research organizations to receive them. One likely result of this is that there will be more government-to-government lobbying.

The question that underlies all this is whether it is good use for local and state tax dollars to be paying for lobbyists. Many states are facing spending cuts and/or rising deficits. Wouldn’t the money be better spent on education and jobs rather then on high-priced lobbyists working smoke-filled rooms and corridors?

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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