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State lobby spending on pace to set records

November 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Lobby spending in Sacramento already is on pace to touch new highs this legislative session, according to third-quarter filing totals released by the secretary of state's office.

Interest groups last quarter spent more than $72 million lobbying state government, a dip from the $77 million they spent during the previous quarter but still enough to push lobby spending to a record high by this point in the legislative session.

During the first three quarters of this legislative session, which began in January, groups have spent nearly $216 million on lobbying services. That's a 5 percent jump over the first three quarters of the 2009-10 session.

Gov. Jerry Brown's first year in office has been a busy one for lobbyists. Hundreds of groups registered to fight over their piece of the state's declining budget, and Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies was among the most-lobbied issues of the year.

Many of the state's other most-lobbied bills also drew millions in spending from wealthy interests that were fighting for or against them, including legislation that would give the state more authority to regulate insurance rates and several labor and employment issues.

Familiar business and labor interests continue to dominate the list of top spenders. The California Teachers Association has reported spending more than $6.2 million through the first three quarters of this year ? nearly double any other spender on the list.

The Western States Petroleum Association, which represents regional oil and gas interests, is second on the list, followed by the California State Council of Service Employees, the Los Angeles-area city of Vernon and the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. Each spent at least $2.5 million.

Vernon is a relatively new addition to the state's top lobby interests, spending at least $3.1 million in an ultimately successful effort to keep lawmakers from disincorporating it as a city following evidence of corruption among municipal officials there.

Starting last quarter, California Watch has been tracking the state's lobbying efforts using a database that allows users to see lobbying activity by bill ? something that has never been possible before.

The database will be updated with third-quarter lobbying activity in the coming weeks.

Read more California investigative reports at CaliforniaWatch.com.

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