Lobbyists report spending $17.8M through July
Detail is inadequate for government oversight
LANSING – Lansing lobbyists reported spending $17.8 million in the first seven months of 2010, according to reports filed with the Michigan Department of State and compiled by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. That total is up by 1.7 percent compared to 2009, when lobbyists reported spending $17.5 million in the seven-month period from January through July.
Multi-client firms, led by Governmental Consultant Services, Inc., held the top four slots for lobbying expenditures, and seven of the top nine spots. Multi-client firms report their clients and their gross spending, but they do not report how much they spend representing each of those clients.
The Michigan Education Association was the leading spender among interest groups, followed by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, AARP and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Lobbyists’ reports do not report which bills, budgets or regulations the lobbyist is seeking to affect. In addition, several categories of lobbying expenditures of direct benefit to officeholders are subject to reporting thresholds:
• Financial transactions (loans, sales) between lobbyists and officeholders do not have to be reported unless they exceed $1,100.
• Travel and lodging provided to officeholders for “public business” does not have to be reported unless its value exceeds $725.
• Tickets for entertainment provided to officeholders do not have to be reported if their value is less than $54. It is illegal to give an officeholder a gift whose value exceeds $54.
• Food and booze provided by a lobbyist to an officeholder does not have to be reported unless its value exceeds $54 in a month, or $350 for a calendar year.
“The Michigan Campaign Finance Network compiles this lobbying report with a certain amount of ambivalence,” said Rich Robinson of MCFN. “The detail of spending reported by the lobbyists is so inadequate that, practically speaking, the greatest impact of the report is probably to publicize the pecking order among the multi-client firms.”
“Reform of lobbying disclosure wouldn’t cost the taxpayers of Michigan a dime, and it could vastly increase voters’ knowledge of the forces that drive government policies,” Robinson said. “Unfortunately, it looks like that kind of reform is just one more can to be kicked down the road by the leadership troika of Bishop, Dillon and Granholm. Such is their collective legacy.”
Reported Michigan Lobbying Expenditures, 2001-2009