Taxpayer-funded lobbying eludes scrutiny due to state loophole
A Freedom Foundation of Minnesota analysis of Lobbying Disclosure Act filings finds that Minnesota’s local governments spent more than $1.1 million to lobby the federal government in 2011, and at least $3.7 million since the start of 2009.
The biggest spenders in 2011 were the City of Minneapolis ($180,000), Hennepin County ($140,000), and Anoka County ($116,000).
The controversial practice of using taxpayer money to lobby for additional taxpayer money is nothing new in Minnesota. In fact, local governments and their associations are required to report lobbying expenditures to the Office of the State Auditor (OSA), which prepares an annual report on local government lobbying activities. OSA’s most recent report found that local governments spent $8.25 million in 2010 on lobbying at the State Capitol.
However, the state law requiring local governments to report lobbying expenditures to the State Auditor does not apply to federal lobbying.
Consequently, Minnesota’s local governments are able to spend a great deal of taxpayer money on Washington lobbyists, largely out of public view.
“Taxpayer-funded lobbying is a self-perpetuating problem that encourages higher spending and the expansion of government at every level,” said Freedom Foundation of Minnesota Vice President Jonathan Blake. “Millions of tax dollars are being used to lobby for millions more. ”
Blake continued: “When taxpayer money is used to lobby at the State Capitol, it’s reported to the state. Yet when the same money is used to hire DC lobbyists, taxpayers are kept in the dark. The double standard makes no sense.”
Notables from the Freedom Foundation’s analysis:
– Scott County discontinued federal lobbying in response to a previous FFM investigative report. That report found that Scott County consistently spent more on DC lobbying than any other local government in Minnesota.
– Anoka County has dramatically curtailed federal lobbying under the county board’s new leadership.
MN Federal Lobbying Summary 2009-2011