California sees record lobbying -- more than $285 million spent
Businesses, unions and other special interests set a record for spending on lobbying state government in California last year-- more than $285 million.
Education, healthcare, assistance to a proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles and a proposal to dissolve the troubled city of Vernon were among the top issues drawing attention from lobbyists in 2011.
The amount spent on lobbying was up 6% from the year before, and just above the previous record -- $281.7 spent on lobbying in 2008.
"Lobbying is at record levels because special interests will always look for ways to game the system," said Phillip Ung, a spokesman for California Common Cause. "Californians should be worried that their voices may be drowned out by lobbyists who outnumber legislators 16:1."
The California Teachers Assn. spent the most on lobbying last year, $6.5 million, in a year when schools were battling threatened budget cuts and legislators acted on bills involving education reform and charter schools. Lobbying disclosure reports were required to be filed with the state by midnight Tuesday, although some are still trickling in.
The California State Council of Service Employees was the second-biggest spender on lobbying with $4.9 million, followed by Western States Petroleum Assn. at $4.2 million, the city of Vernon at $3.5 million and Kaiser Health Plan Inc. at $2.9 million. Chevron, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Hospital Assn., the California Manufacturers and Technology Assn. and AT&T rounded out the top ten.
Vernon, an industrial city that is home to many large corporations, was able to defeat legislation by Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) that would have dissolved the municipal government. Perez sought the bill because of concern about financial mismanagement by the city.
Although not in the top 10, another firm that won a major lobbying victory last year is Anschutz Entertainment Group. It reported paying $608,000 to lobbyists last year and was able to win approval of a custom law that expedites any environmental court challenge filed against its proposal to build an NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Image: Anschutz Entertainment Group spent $608,000 to lobby successfully last year for legislation that would protect a proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles from protracted litigation. Credit: AEG