Who’s Spending the Most to Lobby the Legislature?

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With the Oregon Legislature beginning its third week of the 2011 session, we thought it was time to ask a basic question: Who spends the most money lobbying the legislature and trying to shape state policy?

The Office of Government Ethics tracks how much individual groups spend on lobbying. However, to our knowledge, no one has ever analyzed the data to find out what types of groups spend the most, despite the level of influence that such lobbying expenses can have on policies that affect every Oregonian.

So, we took the Office of Government Ethics Lobbyist Expenditure Reports for 2009 and 2010 and grouped the nearly 900 organizations by category:

Issue Advocacy Nonprofits
Labor Unions
Business Associations
Direct Service Agencies
Public Sector Professional Associations
Private Sector Professional Associations

Here’s what we found:

Combined, the above groups spent $48,624,737 on lobbying in 2009 and 2010.

By far, corporations made up the largest segment of lobbying expenditures. Corporations spent $15,235,195. That’s 31.3% of all spending.

Business associations spent another $9,905,926, or 20.4% of all spending. That means that corporations and business associations combined made up 51.7% of all lobbying expenditures.

Nonprofits (ranging in ideology from 1,000 Friends of Oregon to the NRA) spent $8,845,898, or 18.19% of all lobbying.

Government (including school districts, cities, counties, Native American tribes, and state agencies) spent $7,823,102, or 16% of all spending.

Labor unions—both public sector and private sector—spent $2,708,320
(5.57% of all lobbying).

Public sector professional associations spent $1,476,589 (3.03%), private sector professional associations spent $2,150,494 (4.4%), and direct service agencies spent $479,211 (1%).

During 2009 and 2010, Oregon’s business lobbyists argued—loudly—that they were shut out of the legislative process. But in that time period, they spent more money lobbying legislators (more than $25 million) than any other category.

Combined, corporations and business associations spent nearly ten times more than labor unions–$25.1 million compared to $2.7 million. Why is that important? Corporate lobbyists and right-wing pundits in Oregon have been trying to paint a picture that public employee unions have too much influence in the state legislature.

In reality, corporations throw more money at the state capitol than anyone else.

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