Published on Wednesday, May 1, 2002 by the Associated Press
State-Level Lobbying Cost $570M
by Robert Tanner
Businesses, unions and others hoping to influence state lawmakers and elected officials spent more than $570 million on lobbyists at state capitals in 2000, a report found.
More than half the money was spent in just three states California, New York and Massachusetts, according to the Center for Public Integrity, which released the report Wednesday.
The center found nearly 40,000 organizations businesses, associations, and trade groups registered to lobby in the states, averaging out to roughly one lobbying principal for every five state lawmakers.
The tally came from financial disclosures of lobbyists and those who hired them in 34 states. The other 16 states either don't total the financial information of lobbyists or don't require lobbyists to report their salaries and spending.
"There's a substantial special interest playground out there that no one's watching," said Chuck Lewis, the center's director.
The lobbyists' influence is even greater, Lewis said, when the effects of term limits are considered, since they guarantee inexperienced lawmakers. On top of that, many legislatures have scant staff so lawmakers rely more on lobbyists, he said.
Lawmakers, however, said the report missed the mark by inflating the influence of lobbyists and how it pales next to voters back home.
"A lot of this money spent is pretty much wasted. I honestly don't see much influence," said Indiana state Rep. Win Moses, a Democrat with 10 years in the Legislature.
"Lobbying is an age-old adjunct of legislatures ... It's how people tell us what their main problems are," he said. "But the overall tendency to equate the amount of money that some foolish businessman is willing to spend with legislative action doesn't pan out."
Political scientists said money spent does not necessarily equal inappropriate influence, since lobbyists represent businesses large and small, as well as teachers, health care workers, and any number of issue-oriented groups.
"It's a healthy way for it to work," said Alan Rosenthal, a political science professor and head of the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University. "It's advocacy and people are advocating their views. And advocacy requires money."
California accounted for nearly a third of the total tallied $180.5 million. New York saw $66.3 million, while Massachusetts saw $47.7 million spent.
The insurance industry had the largest number of lobbying organizations nationally with 2,269, with health service organizations next with 1,870. There were 1,859 organizations lobbying on behalf of education.
The center said because of differences in how states track the money spent on or by lobbyists, a significant amount of money likely went untracked. Eleven of the 34 states that do total lobbyist spending don't include lobbyists' salaries.
The center, which has previously looked at state ethics laws and conflicts of interest among state lawmakers, is putting the information it has collected on its Web site for public scrutiny. It has also produced a book looking in-depth at its conclusions regarding conflicts of interest among lawmakers.
State ranking and money spent on and by lobbyists:
New York $66,300,000
New Jersey $18,392,697
© 2002 The Associated Press