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Minnesota 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 attempt 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.

Each year, in accordance with Minn. Stat. § 6.76, the Office of the State Auditor releases the Local Government Lobbying Services report, which shows the expenditures by local governments and their associations for lobbyists and lobbying.

Lobbying the state

The above graph shows the percentage of total lobbying services expenditures by local government entities on staff and/or contract lobbyists in 2009.

Between 1999-2009, governments in Minnesota spent $71,478,806 lobbying the Minnesota state legislature and other departments and agencies in Minnesota. This includes lobbying through membership in government sector lobbying associations, groups of like-governments that collectively lobby for the interests of those governments.

Year Lobbying Total Minnesota State Contract Lobbyists Association Lobbying
2009 $8,879,610 $4,429,214 $4,450,396
2008 $8,550,018 $3,910,101 $4,639,917
2007 $7,817,620 $3,582,782 $4,234,838
2006 $7,063,507 $3,143,062 $3,920,445
2005 $7,786,360 $3,667,943 $4,118,417
2004 $6,258,789 $2,942,404 $3,316,385
2003 $6,082,003 $2,900,118 $3,181,885
2002 $5,397,580 $5,999,540 $2,398,040
2001 $5,264,050 $3,423,876 $1,840,174
2000 $4,277,977 $2,801,869 $1,476,108
1999 $4,101,192 $2,639,335 $1,461,857

Data obtained through annual Minnesota lobbying reports

Lobbying the federal government

A report from the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota highlights 26 local government entities that collectively spent $5.2 million since 2006 lobbying federal officials. Scott County topped the list at $815,000, spending more than twice as much as Hennepin County, which is nine times larger.[1]

Arguments for lobbying

One argument for government sector lobbying is that local governments need lobbyists in order to be heard amongst the multitude of other interests. Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin says counties have to lobby because they "have to fight hard to get [their] message in the right places."[1]

According to county Commissioner Jon Ulrich, lobbying has worked: lobbying efforts secured $62 million in critical transportation projects to Scott County in the past five years. Lobbying also saved the state $40 million when it helped foster agreement that the Highway 169/I-494 interchange reconstruction project didn't have to follow conventional guidelines but could be downsized, according to Shelton.

Transparency

Minnesota's state auditor releases an annual report, the "Local Government Lobbying Services Report"[2] that provides information on the costs of lobbying by Minnesota local governments and their associations.[3] The report explicitly aims to "inform Minnesota citizens and policy makers on the amount spent by their local governments on lobbying services." The auditor has collected information since 1989.[3]

This report does not apply to federal lobbying, however.[4]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations

The above graph shows the percentage of local governments belonging to one or more associations in 2009.

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

County

Municipal

Public officials

School

Transportation

Other

References