Thursday, May 05, 2011

Use your tax dollars for lobbying for more spending?

When the State budget is in the red - or even when not - should my hard-earned dollars that go for taxes be used to lobby the Legislature for more spending? To provide funding for more lobbying for more spending? A bill was introduced Wednesday to limit this practice.

Situation via Freedom Foundation: Taxpayer-funded lobbying is on the rise. Even as government budgets are strained and an income tax is considered, government entities continue to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to pay for lobbyists.

Data compiled by contract lobbyists and public agency lobbying report forms filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) reveal $6 million worth of taxpayer-funded lobbying expenditures in 2009 alone, and over $42 million from 2000 to 2009. In addition, spending on taxpayer-funded lobbying is on the rise. Lobbying expenditures reported to the PDC have more than doubled since 2000.

Most of these expenditures were spent on lobbyists and lobbying firms. While taxpayers were footing the bill, a few lobbyists were receiving huge checks.

However, these figures do not reveal all funds spent on taxpayer-funded lobbying. The Freedom Foundation uncovered over $4.6 million in lobbyist expenditures that were not reported by various public agencies. Sound Transit alone, until questioned by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, had not reported over $800,000 spent on lobbying since 2003 — and the reports Sound Transit filed late were filed improperly.

Also not reported in lobbying forms are hidden costs associated with public agency lobbying, such as pensions and benefits, and the millions spent by state agencies and municipalities to lobby the federal government. See the full analysis at Freedom Foundation (PDF)

Proposal: Representative Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley introduced the Taxpayer Funded Lobbying Reform Act Tuesday that would restrict the now ubiquitous (not to mention costly) practice of state agencies hiring contract lobbyists to persuade the Legislature to give them more money. Rep. Shea’s bill would require all lobbying to be done in-house by particular representatives—the state agency’s elected official, appointed officials, director or deputy directors.

Additionally, the bill would restrict agencies from paying membership dues to any organization—whether public or private—that engages in lobbying activities. HB 2112 also creates personal liability when agency directors or staff violate state agency lobbying restrictions.

Source: Generic Freedom Foundation

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