Report: Local entities spending more on lobbying
Lobbyists continue to bring in more cash from local governments and public agencies for trying to sway state government, prompting a government watchdog group to push for greater openness about the lobbying work.
Municipalities, counties, colleges, universities, school districts and other units of government spent about $1 million more for hired guns from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008, than the previous year, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Local governments spent about $6 million during fiscal year 2008, compared to approximately $5 million during fiscal year 2007 - a growth of 15 percent among the 96 units of government covered in both reports.
"There's a lot of money flowing to lobbyists, private professionals who are paid to influence state policy," said David Morrison, deputy director of ICPR and lead writer of the report.
The ICPR identified 115 units of governments that hired lobbyists last year, an increase from 110 the previous fiscal year.
The watchdog group wants to see changes to how Illinois handles lobbyists.
"Illinoisans are being kept in the dark about lobbying and how it affects their government," Morrison said.
"We need new laws mandating greater transparency so that the public can get a better handle on how their taxpayer dollars are being spent and how special interest groups are influencing their government."
Morrison noted that the federal government, other states and even the city of Chicago have more transparent lobbying systems.
Spending by local entities in Springfield, Peoria and Rockford fluctuated greatly between fiscal 2007 and 2008. These dramatic swings are directly related to whether there are measures or issues the local governments want to see pass or fail in the General Assembly.
The largest spender in the Springfield area was the Springfield Mass Transit District, which paid the firm of Sorling, Northrup, Hanna, Cullen and Cochran $40,000 in fiscal 2008. The previous year the mass transit district did not report hiring a lobbyist.
The city of Springfield paid William S. Foster and Associates $15,000 for its lobbying efforts, after not reporting hiring a lobbyist in 2007.
Springfield Metro Sanitary District saw the smallest change, only increasing their spending on Dorgan-McPike and Associates from $24,361 to $24,700.
The Prairie Capital Convention Center forked over $12,467 to Zack Stamp LTD - a slight increase from spending $12,361 in fiscal 2007.
The village of Chatham had the biggest decrease, going from spending $24,000 on lobbying efforts in fiscal 2007 to reporting no lobbying expenses in fiscal 2008.
Spending in the Peoria area was relatively low, with the Peoria Civic Center paying John Holub and Zack Stamp LTD $750 each for a total of $1,500. Spending on lobbyists for the previous year was $3,000.
Peoria County gave Anderson Legislative Consulting $14,000 in both fiscal 2007 and 2008. The city of Peoria did not report hiring a lobbyist in either year.
The Rockford Metropolitan Exposition Authority gave John Holub $25,000, an increase of $11,000 from the previous fiscal year.
Both the Rockford Park District and the city of Rockford saw decreases in lobbyist spending. The park district paid John Holub $4,500, down from $8,490 the previous fiscal year. Rockford's lobbyist spending dropped from $5,000 in 2007 to nothing reported last year.
Andrew Thomason can be reached at (217) 782-6882 firstname.lastname@example.org.