Money & Company
Tracking the market and economic trends that shape your finances.
February 21, 2011 | 2:36 pm

Special interest groups with business before the state government spent $538 million on professional lobbyists to influence the passage or defeat of bills during the 2009-10 legislative session.

Though slightly less than the $550 million spent on lobbying in 2007-08, the total was 39% higher than the amount reported for the first two years of the decade.

“Democracy is getting increasingly expensive in California,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of California. He likened spending on lobbying to the Cold War arms race between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

“These costs only are going to continue to spiral higher and higher,” said Schnur.” You pay a lobbyist a million dollars but you can go home with a $1-billion tax break.”

The lobbyists — either salaried staffers of the interest groups or independent contractors that work for numerous clients — also try to affect the writing of regulations by dozens of government agencies, ranging from the California Environmental Protection Agency to the state Department of Insurance.

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