By THE MICHIGAN CAMPAIGN FINANCE NETWORK
LANSING (Sept. 5, 2019) — About 50 new state lawmakers took office at the start of 2019. And lobbyists have been spending a record amount to get to know them.
Michigan lobbyists reported spending $23.2 million over the first seven months of 2019, a 6-percent increase over the previous high for the same period in past years, according to disclosures.
New disclosures, which were due Tuesday, covered spending that took place from Jan. 1, 2019, through July 31, 2019. The spending total includes payments made to individuals who represent clients in Lansing, lobbyist-funded food purchases for officeholders and lobbyist-funded travel purchases for officeholders.
In Michigan, lobbyists file reports on their activities twice a year. The second batch of disclosures will come at the end of January 2020 and cover from Aug. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2019.
As of 2018, 1,501 groups, businesses or labor unions had registered to lobby Michigan officeholders. Meanwhile, 1,443 individuals or firms had registered as lobbyist agents to represent clients in the halls of the Capitol.
The four largest spenders on lobbying in Michigan so far in 2019 have been multi-client firms that represent an array of interests. Governmental Consultant Services Inc. reported spending $913,343 over the first seven months of the year. James H. Karoub Associates reported spending $790,017. Kelley Cawthorne reported spending $725,282. And Midwest Strategy Group reported spending $713,799.
Those figures don’t tell the whole story of how much multi-client firms are paid by clients because not all of the payments fall under Michigan’s disclosure laws, which generally focus on direct communication with state officeholders.
The interest groups that have spent the most on lobbying so far this year have been the Michigan Health & Hospital Association ($358,058), MGM Grand Detroit ($247,302) and the Michigan Credit Union League ($239,177).
The Michigan Health & Hospital Association was heavily involved in fight over changing the state’s auto insurance laws. MGM Grand Detroit has been involved in a legislative push to overhaul casino regulations.
The overall spending total of $23.2 million is $1.4 million above the previous high for the first seven months of a year. That high came in 2017. However, the year that saw most spending over the entire 12 months was 2018. Last year saw a surge in spending during the lame duck session after the election and before term-limited officeholders left office. Generally, lobbyist spending has been trending upward for a decade.
Over the first seven months of 2019, lobbyists have reported spending $515,165 purchasing food and drinks for state officeholders. That total beats the food and drink total for January through July 2018 but fall short of the 2015 record of $552,524.
The Michigan Campaign Finance Network will analyze the food and drink disclosures in the coming days.
The following is a list of some groups that have hiked their spending on lobbying in 2019:
— Enbridge Energy is currently fighting attempts to shut down its Line 5 oil and natural gas liquids pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac because of environmental concerns. The company reported spending $105,729 on lobbying over the seven months of the year. Over the same period in 2018, it reported spending just $29,490 on lobbying.
— Immigration Centers of America, which had plans to build an immigrant detention center in Michigan according to The Detroit News, registered to lobby on Feb. 6, 2019. It has reported spending $51,912 on lobbying since then.
— Three professional sports leagues have also increased their disclosed spending in Michigan. The National Football League reported spending $36,000 on lobbying over the first seven months of 2019. The National Basketball Association reported spending $32,884. And Major League Baseball reported spending $31,782. None of the three spent more than $10,000 over the first seven months of 2018.