Taxpayer-funded lobbying

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Taxpayer-funded lobbying is defined as the practice of using funds that come directly or indirectly from taxpayers for political lobbying purposes. in the most common case, a city, county or school district uses taxpayer funds to pay dues to belong to a group such as the League of California Cities, and that association then donates money directly to political causes; most commonly, to a campaign committee for a ballot measure.

Americans for Prosperity has drawn attention to this problem, especially Peggy Venable, head of the Americans for Prosperity chapter in Texas. Venable successfully sued the county she lives in, Williamson County, so that it could no longer pay dues to belong to the Texas Association of Counties, which lobbies extensively on state and local issues in Texas, often for programs that increase the burden on taxpayers.

Basis of objections to taxpayer-funded lobbying

Thomas Jefferson said, "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." This line is often quoted to express the most common objection to the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying.

A secondary objection is that most taxpayers are unaware that their tax money, through dues, is used to fund lobbying advocacy programs with which they may disagree. This objection calls, at a minumum, for taxpayer-funded asssociations to, minimally, disclose the amount of money they receive in taxpayer-funded dues.

Taxpayer-funded dues and ballot measures

A 2006 example that excited controversy in California was when the League of California Cities, which receives often very significant income from cities (and thus, from taxpayers) in the form of dues, gave $4.8 million to the campaign to defeat California Proposition 90 (2006), an eminent domain reform initiative. The $4.8 million given by the League of California Cities represented 32.9% of the total money spent to defeat Proposition 90.[1] The League of California Cities has subsequently said that the money it gave to defeat Proposition 90, and the money it gives to other ballot measure campaigns, is "non-public money." However, it has refused to disclose the source of this money. In 2007 and 2008, the League has given another $2,470,000 to defeat California Proposition 98 (2008) and support the counter-measure, California Proposition 99 (2008).[2]

Bans on taxpayer-funded lobbying

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References