Lobby Lobby Lobby Get Your Handouts Here
Last year, the insurance industry was the biggest spender on lobbyists, dedicating more than three-quarters of a million dollars to getting its way, according to a Phoenix review of lobbying disclosure reports. In addition, the gambling, banking and finance, hospital, drug, and energy industries each spent more than $250,000 to hire lobbyists, according to the Phoenix compilation.
And, as Stycos explains, it’s hard to ferret out the extent of lobbying activities.
Public concerns about lobbying have focused on financial ties between legislators and lobbyists. In January, the Providence Journal reported that lobby groups including Rhode Island Housing, the Laborers’ International Union, and Newport Grand failed to report their well-known financial links with state legislators. The success of lobbying groups in defending their interests, often at the expense of the public interest, receives far less attention, however. Part of the problem is that the law allows lobbyists and their clients to file vague reports.
Some lobby groups, like the Rhode Island Bankers Association, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, and ExxonMobil, report the bill numbers they monitor and whether they support or oppose each one. Most groups, however, use a lobbying law provision that allows them to report their interest in general subject areas, not specific bills. Some major interests only needed one word to describe their activities at the State House. The Rhode Island AFL-CIO, for example, reported that its three lobbyists were concerned with “Labor,” while National Grid related that its six lobbyists monitored legislation on “Energy.” Community Financial Services of America reported its interest in “Financial Services.”
Here are the Big 6 lobbying interests:
BANKING & FINANCE: $426,256
While the piece highlights the dollars spent by corporations, it would seem that labor interests are a noteworthy absence. However, the AFL-CIO’s George Nee helpfully explains why unions don’t need to spend as much money as corporations when it comes to pushing their agenda:
Notably absent from the list of big spenders, though certainly a force on Smith Hill, is the Rhode Island labor movement. Unions reported spending about $100,000 on lobbying. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer George Nee says union expenses are comparatively low because most unions use staff and members to lobby. Union staff salaries, he explains, “are considerably less” than those of lawyers and corporate staff.
I wonder if someone has done a cost-benefit analysis of “Time at GA vs. Dollars Reported as Spent for Lobbying” to determine which group is the most efficient?