Our View: Lobbyist spending down?

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By Ralph Damiani

Reports from the end of the recent legislative session suggest that there was a drop in lobbyist spending. But was there?

This report for the session this year is after the state enacted a limit on the value of gifts given to elected and appointed state officials, legislators and state employees during last year’s session.

And lobbyists reported spending less on pricey dinners, gifts and other events during the just completed legislative session than they did during the previous 30-day session two years ago.

But it is unclear whether total spending by lobbyists will change because of the law as lobbyists don’t have to file a more extensive disclosure of expenditures until later.

However, it seems like the reality is there was little change.

During the 30-day session that ended last week, lobbyists and their clients spent at least $214,185 on food, drinks and gifts, according to a review of lobbyist disclosure reports by The Associated Press.

That is down from $230,307 spent during the 30-day session in 2006 but up from the $203,000 in 2004 and roughly the same as the $226,000 in 2002. During last year's 60-day session, lobbyists spent nearly $278,000 on big-ticket items.

Lobbyists are required to report expenditures of $500 or more within 48 hours during a legislative session.

However, those reports represent only a portion of what lobbyists spend. Some dinners and events are sponsored by groups of lobbyists, allowing individuals to keep their share of the cost below the $500 threshold that requires immediate disclosure during a session.

So for now, it looks like the new law has had very little effect.