Lobbying

By Ben Baeder, Whittier Daily News
Posted: 07/06/14, 6:03 PM PDT | Updated: 31 mins ago

At an increasing pace, your local government is spending your tax money paying lobbyists to get some more of your own tax money sent back to your community.

A review of state records shows that government-on-government lobbying is the single largest segment of lobbying of California’s state Legislature.

Water districts, city councils and school districts spend more than bankers, pharmaceutical companies, health care or any other category, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office. In all, local governments spend about $45 million annually to influence the 120 elected state lawmakers and a host of other bureaucrats and political appointees who influence state politics.

And those figures don’t count money from public employee unions or public private partnerships.

What’s more, government-on-government lobbying has outpaced the overall growth in lobbying.

Since 2002, spending on all lobbying is up 45.5 percent. But during the same time period, government lobbying grew even faster, increasing by 50.5 percent.

All that spending has got the staff at one advocacy group wondering: Why can’t a member of the local government just pick up the phone and talk with a legislator?

“That system where a local government official just honestly asks for what he or she needs for the local agency, it seems like it doesn’t work like that anymore,” said Philip Ung, director for Common Cause California and a registered lobbyist himself. “And I think people want to know why.”

The reasons for the increase are many, according to experts who cite everything from term limits to increasing societal complexity.

But when it comes down to the brass tacks, almost everyone comes to the same conclusion to explain why: It works.

“There are a lot of different voices up there trying to reach lawmakers,” said Bob Pacheco, a Republican from Diamond Bar who served in the Assembly from 1998 to 2004. “Lobbyists are a great tool to get attention for a city.”

Lobbyists help legislators, many of whom are inexperienced under term limits, cut through the static and get right to the important questions, such as: What will this do? Who wants it? Will it work? and What are the chances of getting it passed?

Lobbyists have relationships, data and knowledge of the personalities and passions of the state’s lawmakers, said Pacheco, who now serves on the Walnut City Council.

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