Washington government sector lobbying

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Taxpayer-funded lobbying is government to government lobbying. Counties, cities, school districts, public facilities, and associations of public employees frequently use public funds to influence legislation and appropriations at the state and federal levels.

This practice is controversial because public funds are spent to lobby for an agenda not subject to direct approval by voters, and outcomes may be contrary to taxpayers' benefit.

In 2009, public agencies spent more than $6 million lobbying the state government in Olympia:[1]

  • Tacoma Public Utilities spent $191,353 lobbying the state of Washington
  • The Office of the Governor spent $107,141 on in-state lobbying
  • The biggest public lobbyer, the University of Washington, spent $306,377.

According to lobbying reports filed with the Public Disclosure Commission, lobbying expenditures by public agencies have more than doubled over the past decade in Washington.

Disclosure issues

Forms filed with the Public Disclosure Commission by lobbyists reveal at least $4.6 million in lobbying expenditures not filed by their public agency clients.[1]

Sound Transit, which operates bus and rail service in the Puget Sound region, failed to file lobbying reports for the last seven years amounting to over $800,000 in undisclosed lobbying. The delinquent reports were filed after the Freedom Foundation asked it to explain the missing reports.[1]

In addition, by cross-checking agency lobbying reports with contract lobbyist reports, the Bellingham Herald discovered 67 other public agencies that failed to disclose or underreported their lobbying expenditures.[1]

Some agencies, such as Puget Sound Partnership, pay in-house staff to lobby in lieu of contract lobbyists.[1]

Public agencies can be penalized for failing to properly file lobbying reports on time. The penalty, a few thousand dollars, would be paid out of the agency's budget. This means taxpayers not only pay for the lobbying but the penalties as well.[1]

Evergreen Freedom Foundation investigation

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation found that 68 agencies in Washington had failed to disclose their lobbying. The Transit Authority has not complied with transparency laws and has not reported its lobbying activity for seven years, which amounted to $800,000.[2]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations

The following is a list of Washington government sector lobbying associations by type:

City

County

Emergency services

Justice

School

Port

Other

References