The size of an agency does not necessarily reflect how much it spends trying to get its way. Some of the biggest spenders are obscure state agencies or small communities. For instance, the Town of Queen Creek spent almost $100,000 lobbying the state last year, and another $90,000 on federal lobbyists, according to disclosure reports. The Arizona Historical Society, the state Board of Accountancy and the Arizona Medical Board all reported spending of more than $35,000 annually on lobbyists.The Goldwater report further revealed the reported cost of lobbying is usually much less than the actual cost. Although state agencies are supposed to report all lobbying costs, many either fail to do so or under report actual costs. For example:
Phoenix reported $192,109 in spending on lobbyists last year, including $77,700 for three outside lobbying firms. In reality, those firms were paid $310,800, according to city records. The full cost of those contracts is not reported because the lobbyists do not spend all of their time talking to legislators.The report also quoted Senator Pearce as follows:
For the most part, what the lobbyists are seeking is money. It makes no sense that governments are cutting vital services like police protection and teachers, and imposing millions of dollars in new taxes, at the same time they are spending so much money on lobbyists. I don’t need a lobbyist hanging around down here that is taxpayer-paid, who is only trying to get more taxpayer money. It’s like you’re funding your worst enemies.Darcy Olsen, president and chief executive officer of the Goldwater Institute, was quoted as follows:
I just think we’re very careless and reckless with the taxpayer’s money. We forget that people work for this money. We tax it. We take it by force. And we ought to be a little tender in how we spend it. If they are paying for government, it ought to be going for government.
The amount of money being spent by governments to lobby the Legislature is an insult to taxpayers, as is the unwillingness of many agencies to fully disclose the cost. Taxpayer funded lobbying skews free speech by allowing agencies to push their agendas at public expense. That makes it tougher for average citizens to be heard and blocks reforms that are needed, especially in lean budget times.Note: The 2002 Auditor Generals report (see Jan 3rd post) states that the AHS Executive committee hired the Board President’s son in law for $9,750 in lobbying services. They exceeded their $5,000 spending limit without either obtaining price quotations or the approval of the State Purchasing Office.
The lack of disclosure makes matters worse by hiding the true cost of government-to-government lobbying. It’s an abuse of taxpayer trust and funds, but all the more so in a period of tough budget cuts and high unemployment. It’s just insulting.