LANSING – State lobbyists reported $29.9 million in lobbying expenditures in 2006. That figure is up by 28.2 percent compared to the last gubernatorial-election year of 2002 when lobbyists’ spending totaled $23.3 million.
Reported spending included $450,994 for food and beverages.
Multi-client firms were top spenders, led by: Governmental Consultant Services, Inc. - $1,308,435; James H. Karoub Associates - $985,129; Wiener Associates - $667,144; Muchmore Harrington Smalley & Associates - $612,077; and, Public Affairs Associates - $580,804.
Top spenders among interest groups were: Michigan Education Association - $852,000; Michigan Health & Hospital Association - $422,375; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan - $335,591; and, the National Federation of Independent Businesses - $329,371.
“Lobbying expenditures are following the same growth path as campaign finance spending,” said Rich Robinson of the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “The money-in-politics sector is growing at a rate that beats any other industry you can name in Michigan.”
Reform legislation that has passed the U.S. Senate and is all but certain to pass the U.S. House will make federal lobbyists’ activity more regulated and transparent than ever before. In comparison, state lobbyists’ activity is relatively unrestrained and poorly disclosed. A point-by-point comparison follows:Meals · Federal: Lobbyists prohibited from paying for meals for individual public officials. · Michigan: No restrictions on lobbyists paying for food and beverages for public officials; beneficiaries do not have to be identified until spending on their behalf exceeds $53 in a month or $325 for a calendar year. Gifts · Federal: Lobbyists prohibited from giving gifts except those of de minimus value. · Michigan: Lobbyists can give public officials items of value, such as tickets for entertainment, worth as much as $53 in any month. Disclosure is not required. Travel · Federal: Lobbyists prohibited from paying for travel for public officials except: one-day trips; trips that are paid for by a 501 (c) (3) organization with pre-approval of the Ethics Committee; or, trips that are paid for by a university. · Michigan: Lobbyists are permitted to pay for travel. Disclosure is not required unless the cost of travel and accommodations exceeds $700. Filing requirements · Federal: Lobbyists to report quarterly. Electronic filing mandatory. · Michigan: Lobbyists report twice annually. Electronic filing is optional. Content of lobbying reports · Federal: Lobbyists must report bills, regulations and issues on which they are lobbying. Interest groups must report how much they are paying lobbyists. · Michigan: Lobbyists report gross expenditures and identify individual beneficiaries when spending exceeds reporting thresholds. No requirement to disclose bills, regulations and budgets that are the subject of lobbying. Multi-client lobbyists identify those who retain their service, but not how much each client pays them.