WASHINGTON – It may seem counter-intuitive but there’s a whole species of Washington lobbyists who specialize in working with state and local governments to secure funding from the federal government. Many cities and counties in Minnesota have hired lobbyists for just that purpose, including Minneapolis, Moorhead, St. Cloud and Hennepin County.
(For more information on the practice, you can read this story I did on the issue last year.)
But with demise of earmarks (which used to serve as a mechanism for members of Congress to direct spending to their home states and districts), tighter city and county budgets, and the end of the federal economic stimulus program, local governments appear to be spending less on lobbying, according to a new study by the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, a conservative-leaning think tank.
The study estimates that Minnesota’s cities, counties and municipal authorities (for example, the Metropolitan Airports Commission) spent about $1.1 million lobbying the federal government in 2011. That’s down from nearly $1.4 million in 2010 and nearly $1.3 million in 2009.
“Taxpayer-funded lobbying is a self-perpetuating problem that encourages higher spending and the expansion of government at every level,” said the Freedom Foundation ‘s vice president Jonathan Blake, in a statement. “Millions of tax dollars are being used to lobby for millions more.”
The foundation notes that while local governments are required to report how much they spent lobbying the state government to the State Auditor’s office, there’s no such requirement for federal lobbying. Still, federal lobbying rules require that organizations hiring a federally-registered lobbyist report their approximate spending, along with the issues they’re lobbying on, to the U.S. Senate.
Here’s the Freedom Foundation’s summary of what local governments spend on federal lobbying based on those Senate records: