By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
Lobbyists reported spending more money trying to sway Michigan lawmakers in 2015 than any year before.
According to disclosure reports filed this month, lobbyists spent a grand total of $38.7 million in 2015. That’s a $1.7 million increase over 2014, and a $1.6 million increase over the previous annual record of $37.1 million from 2012.
Lobbyists also spent more money on buying meals for public officials last year. There was $844,184 in reported spending on food and drinks in 2015. That’s up from a previous high of $819,710 in 2013 and more than double the amount spent in 2001, $302,276.
Not only is there more money trying to influence Michigan’s elected officials, there are more lobbyists as well. There were 2,998 lobbyists and lobbyist agents registered in Michigan in 2015, up from the previous record of 2,959 in 2012.
Spending on lobbying in Michigan is dominated by large multi-client firms that represent numerous companies and interest groups.
James H. Karoub Associates spent the most on lobbying in 2015 at $1.7 million. The firm, which describes itself as the state’s oldest and largest multi-client firm, lists the Detroit Tigers, the Michigan Auto Dealers Association, DTE Energy and the Michigan Pharmacists Association among its clients.
Just behind Karoub in spending was the multi-client firm Government Consultant Services Inc. (GCSI), which reported $1.6 million in spending in 2015. Third was Kelley Cawthorne at $1.4 million.
Under current state law, these multi-client firms only have to disclose their total spending and their roster of clients. But they don’t have to disclose how much they’re spending on behalf of each of their clients, clouding the public’s ability to draw connections between spending and legislative action.
The rest of the 2015 list of the top lobbying spenders looks likes this: RWC Advocacy, $618,564; Muchmore Harrington Smalley And Associates, $570,655; the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, $558,353; Midwest Strategy Group of Michigan, $534,060; Public Affairs Associates, $530,020; Kandler Reed Khoury And Muchmore, $448,097.05; and the Michigan Credit Union League, $396,698.
A list of the top 200 lobbying spenders is linked to this page.
In total, Michigan’s most active lobbyists spent more in 2015 than 2014 as well. The top 200 spent $25.5 million last year compared to $24.8 million the year before.
DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, the state’s dominant electric utilities were both in the top 20 for spending in 2015 as the Legislature considered major reforms to energy policy. DTE spent $361,242, and Consumers spent $311,117.
Switch, the Nevada data center company that won tax breaks from the Legislature in 2015, reported spending $8,700 on lobbying last year. The company registered as a lobbyist for the first time in November.
Likewise, daily fantasy sport websites FanDuel and Draft Kings, which are fighting regulation in other states, are also new lobbyists in Michigan. Each reported spending $9,000 last year.
Spending on lobbying isn’t just done by private companies. Universities, cities, counties and even state departments spend heavily on lobbying. The executive office of Gov. Rick Snyder reported $96,000 in expenditures in 2015, and the Department of Treasury reported $80,000 in expenditures.
As for counties and cities, Detroit, Wayne County and Marquette County reported spending the most. Detroit reported $49,400 in expenditures. Wayne County reported $123,599, and Marquette County reported $74,025.