Groups spent $800M lobbying government officials

Published 11:01 am Tuesday, July 5, 2016

ST. PAUL — Special interest groups have spent $800 million lobbying government officials in Minnesota over the last 13 years, a newspaper analysis has found.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press review of Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board data also found that the amount of annual spending has doubled and the number of lobbying clients has tripled.

Groups spent about $36 million on ads, salaries and other resources to influence government action in 2002, the first year spending had to be reported electronically, according to the review. In 2013 they spent $74 million. In 2014 they spent $70 million and last year, the last full year for which data was available, they spent $67 million.

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Business interests have dominated the spending annually, making up about half of the lobbying spending every year since 2002. Utilities have spent the most, followed by the health industry.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has spent nearly $25 million on lobbying since 2002 on behalf of its business-member organizations. Its interests lie heavily in the tax and regulatory sectors, but it also lobbies on transportation, education and the environment. Xcel Energy and Enbridge Energy Partners, which is seeking to build a pipeline across the state, are also among the top spenders. Teachers union Education Minnesota has also been one of the top spenders.

Local governments have stepped up their lobbying presence, increasing their spending from $5 million in 2002 to nearly $9 million last year.

Spending or the lack thereof doesn’t always translate to influence, however. The National Rifle Association, for example, has spent just $250,000 lobbying in Minnesota over the past 13 years, ranking 671st in spending among lobbying groups, yet its stances are well-aired at the Capitol.