Gov't lobbying government: Local governments spent $8.3 million in 2011 to lobby legislators

All that money went to influence the people in here
All that money went to influence the people in here

The Vikings don't have to release information on how much money they spent lobbying Minnesota in 2011, but the state's local governments do. Their lobbying tab for last year comes in at $8.3 million, according to a 386-page report released Monday by the state auditor's office. That number's a 0.7 percent, or $55,000, increase in local government lobbying spending from 2010.

Since 2011 was a budget session in the Legislature, versus 2010's shorter bonding session, this increase is low, per State Auditor Rebecca Otto. "It is notable that in 2011, local government lobbying costs remained relatively flat," she said in a statement covered by Pioneer Press.

After all, as the report notes up front, local governments have to make themselves heard. "The operation and funding of local governments can be greatly affected by decisions made by the state Legislature," the report reads. "Therefore, it is understandable that those affected by these decisions would want to have representation during the legislative process."

Eighty-two local governments spent $4 million directly to have that representation, either employing their own staff to lobby or contracting the pros. The other half of the total figure comes from local government associations--groups that cities, counties, school districts and other service districts pay dues to--which spent $4.3 million on lobbying.

The biggest direct spender among the state's local governments is the city of Minneapolis, which shelled out $467,139 for lobbying in 2011. Second place goes to Hennepin County, which spent about half that, at $246,214. The city of Saint Paul comes in fifth on the list, with just $161,098 in lobbying expenses. In total, 11 local governments reported six-figure bills for lobbyists in 2011, including the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, seventh, and the Metro Sports Facilities Commission, eighth, with $127,527 and $120,338 in expenses.

Of the local government associations, cities take the two top spots, and then schools. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities spent $822,239 to assert its influence, the League of Minnesota Cities $608,965, the Minnesota School Boards Association $606,961, and the Association of Metropolitan School Districts $280,981.

The report also covers the other side of the equation, giving a list of the lobbyists of choice. 13 firms or employee lobbyists made more than $100,000 from the state's local governments or local government associations, with Saint Paul-based Flaherty & Hood, P.A. leading the pack at $772,076.

In response to the audit report, Minneapolis Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said to the Star Tribune that the 2011 season was "the best example of why it's critical to spend the right amount of resources on lobbying." Though Glidden counts the ways the city's nearly half-million for lobbying actually saved millions, Taxpayers League of Minnesota President Phil Krinkie offers the other perspective. He told the paper, "Truly, it's outrageous that we have local governments spending millions of dollars trying to influence the outcome of the Legislature."

Related coverage:
-- Minnesota Vikings unleash seven-man lobbying blitz effort at Capitol
-- The 10 most influential lobbyists in Minnesota

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